Tom Carper, a U.S. senator representing Delaware since 2001, announced Monday that he’s retiring when his term ends next year.
Carper, 76, at a news conference on the Wilmington Riverfront, signaled his support for Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, the state’s first Black member of Congress, as his successor, The Washington Post reported.
“The odds-on favorite to replace the longtime Delaware politico is Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), who has indicated an interest in running for the Senate if Carper decided against seeking another term,” according to The Hill. Politico made the same prediction.
In 1976, at the age of 29, he was elected to the first of three terms as Delaware’s state treasurer. Six years later, he was elected to Delaware’s at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He went on to serve five terms as a U.S. Congressman.
He then served two terms as governor of Delaware beginning in 1993.
“Tom Carper has literally bent the arch of Delaware history,” Secretary of State Jeff Bullock said. “I started my public service with Tom Carper as a 22-year-old intern. Over the next 17 years, I had the opportunity to serve as his chief of staff in the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, and for most of his time as governor.”
“As chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Carper has protected our lands and waterways and played an instrumental role in the passage of both the landmark, bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act,” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said in his congratulatory statement.
“For more than five decades, Tom Carper has served our state and our nation with distinction,” Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, and Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman said in a joint statement. “His tireless dedication and infectious spirit have improved the lives of countless Delawareans across every corner of our state. From the redevelopment of the Wilmington Riverfront, the creation of the First State National Historic Park and the protection of our beaches and inland bays to his work as a champion of the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Post Office and American infrastructure.”
“The First State National Historical Park is just one example of Sen. Carper delivering for Delaware, with the Wilmington Riverfront, record investments during his time as governor, numerous beach replenishments, bridge repairs along the C&D Canal, securing significant federal funding for various projects throughout the state, and countless other accomplishments adding to his legacy,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and House Majority Whip Melissa Minor-Brown said in a joint statement. “It’s difficult to find a politician – of either party – or political staffer who hasn’t directly or indirectly been in Sen. Carper’s orbit or influenced by him. Our state is richer for having had Tom Carper serving it. While we’re saddened by his decision to retire, we’re happy that he is writing the conclusion to his own political story, and we wish him well in the next chapter of his life.”
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“Senator Carper is an institution in our state – and a servant leader who has always put the interests of Delaware families first,” Governor John Carney said in a statement. “He has been a tireless advocate for Delaware. And in a time of increasing divisiveness, Senator Carper continues to work across the aisle to find common ground and get things done. I was fortunate to serve on then-Governor Carper’s staff, and in his cabinet. For me, the Senator has been a friend, a mentor, and a constant source of good advice. And I know I’m not alone in that respect. Throughout his time in Congress, as Governor, and his four terms in the U.S. Senate, he mentored countless public officials who came behind him. Senator Carper is one-of-a kind. His leadership in Washington will be sorely missed – but I’m confident he’ll find ways to stay involved for the good of our state.”
“No one put more miles in than Tom Carper. No one worked harder for Delaware than Tom Carper,” Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester said in a statement. “And I’m thrilled that he’ll now get to spend more time with Martha and his wonderful sons. After all, I know that the titles of husband and father have always meant more to him than Senator. To me, this is Tom Carper’s legacy. That he deeply loved our state of neighbors. That he worked tirelessly every single day to make it a better place. And that in his endeavor, he succeeded.”
“The Delaware Republican Party recognizes U.S. Senator Tom Carper for his years of public service,” Julianne Murray, chair of the Delaware State Republican Party said. “We salute Senator Carper’s commitment to helping others and his years of service to the Delaware Community. The Democrat Party has changed since Tom was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982. It is not the party it was when he started his career. Tom stood for small government, worked across the aisle with Republicans in the U.S. House and the Delaware General Assembly, and occasionally voted independently of the party. That has changed too! Today, the Democrat Party and Washington D.C. are very different. We have been preparing to give the Delaware voters a choice between the New Democrat Party and a very different alternative when we elect Tom Carper’s successor.”
“Senator Carper has been a fixture in Delaware politics for many years. I thank him for his service and wish him well in his retirement,” Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, said in a statement.
Born in West Virginia and raised in Virginia, Carper attended Ohio State University on a Navy ROTC scholarship, graduating in 1968 with a B.A. in economics. He went on to complete five years of service as a naval flight officer, serve three tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War — he’s the last Vietnam War veteran in the Senate.
He moved to Delaware in 1973 where he earned his MBA at the University of Delaware. Today, he and his wife, Martha, live in Wilmington, and he is a regular on Amtrak between Wilmington and Washington.
Neither House Republicans nor Senate Republicans in Delaware plan on collectively putting out a statement about Carper’s retirement at this time.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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