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Vice president's son decides not to run for Senate

In a Dec. 23, 2009 photo, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden holds a press conference at the Department of Justice in Georgetown, Del. to update the charges against Dr. Earl B. Bradley. Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden will not be running for the U.S. Senate seat once held by his father, Vice President Joe Biden.The younger Biden told supporters in an e-mail letter Monday, Jan. 25, 2010 that he will run for re-election as attorney general rather than seek the Democratic nomination for Senate. In a Dec. 23, 2009 photo, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden holds a press conference at the Department of Justice in Georgetown, Del. to update the charges against Dr. Earl B. Bradley. Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden will not be running for the U.S. Senate seat once held by his father, Vice President Joe Biden.The younger Biden told supporters in an e-mail letter Monday, Jan. 25, 2010 that he will run for re-election as attorney general rather than seek the Democratic nomination for Senate. (AP Photo/Chuck Snyder)
By Randall Chase
Associated Press Writer / January 25, 2010

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DOVER, Del.—Vice President Joe Biden's eldest son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, dealt another body blow to the flailing Democratic Party on Monday, announcing that he will not run for the Senate seat long held by his father.

The younger Biden said he needs to remain focused as attorney general on a high-profile criminal scandal involving a pediatrician accused of sexually assaulting several patients. Prosecutors believe Dr. Earl Bradley, who was arrested in December, may have molested more than 100 children over the past decade.

"The reality is, it became increasingly clear over the last several weeks that it was impossible to mount a Senate campaign in the face of dealing with both the prosecution in Lewes as well as the things I need to do, our office needs to do, for victims," Biden told The Associated Press.

Some political observers believe there was more to Biden's decision than staying true to a 2006 campaign promise to crack down on child predators.

"As always, they tell part of the truth, but not the whole truth," said University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato. "This is going to be a very tough year for Democrats, and that would have included even Beau Biden in Delaware."

Biden's decision was a surprise, given that his father's longtime confidant and former Senate chief of staff, Ted Kaufman, was appointed to the seat essentially to keep it warm for the son until this year's election.

But longtime Republican Rep. Mike Castle, a two-term governor and one of the most successful politicians in Delaware history, entered the Senate race in October, dramatically increasing the likelihood of a fierce contest.

"The decision to run for the United States Senate is not only a political one but also a very personal one," Castle, 70, said in a statement Monday. "I respect Beau Biden's decision to remain focused on his significant responsibilities as Delaware's attorney general."

Biden's decision leaves the seat his father held for 36 years vulnerable even as Democrats and their leader, President Barack Obama, lick their wounds following Republican Scott Brown's victory last week for the Senate seat long held by the late Democrat Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Brown's upset ended the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

"I don't think you can underestimate Massachusetts," Sabato said. "But the fact that Massachusetts happened tells you that the underlying conditions were not favorable for Democrats, even in a Democratic state like Delaware."

Two weeks before the Massachusetts election, Sen. Byron Dorgan chose to retire in North Dakota rather than face re-election, putting a once-safe Democratic seat in serious trouble. No less than three Democratic senators were already vulnerable: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

The GOP also is making a play for the Illinois seat once held by Obama. Sen. Roland Burris, who was appointed to the seat after Obama's election as president, is not running. Republicans are planning to fight for the Senate seat held by the retiring Chris Dodd in Connecticut.

Given a political environment tipping their way, the GOP is keeping an eye on Sens. Barbara Boxer in California, Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York.

With Kaufman sticking to the pledge he made when appointed that he would not campaign to serve the remaining four years of Joe Biden's Senate term, Democrats may turn to New Castle County Chief Executive Chris Coons.

Coons, who has only a fraction of Biden's name recognition, said he is seriously considering a Senate bid and had received several calls of support. He said he will take time to speak with family members and others before making a decision, which he said should come within the next several days.

Castle, a leader of GOP centrists who has demonstrated crossover appeal among Democrats as well as unaffiliated voters, has a significant head start over the Democrats in fundraising. He has taken in more than $1 million since announcing his Senate bid in October, ending 2009 with about $1.7 million in his campaign chest.