Beau Biden to Replace Joe Biden?

While Barack Obama has already resigned his Senate seat to concentrate on the transition, Joe Biden has not followed suit.  NBC’s Doug Adams speculates that he’s holding off on doing so in order to set the stage for his son, Beau, to replace him.

Biden told a local TV station right before Election Day he didn’t want to resign his seat right away, leading to speculation about whether he is trying to deny the outgoing governor of Delaware — Democrat Ruth Ann Minner — the chance to appoint his successor.  Under that scenario, Biden would wait until moments before he is sworn in as vice president to resign his seat, which could enable the new governor, Jack Markell, to make the appointment.

Biden has been said for some time to be grooming his son Beau Biden to succeed him in the Senate. Beau is currently Delaware’s Attorney General. He is on leave while he serves on active duty in the Delaware National Guard, where he is a captain.  Beau Biden is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq for about a year, making it unlikely he’d be appointed now to his father’s seat. But he would be well positioned to run in 2010, when a special election will be held to fill the remaining four years of his father’s term.

The current thinking then is that a placeholder would be appointed to fill the seat for two years until the younger Biden could run.

Appointing family members to succeed politicians who suddenly die in office is a longstanding tradition, as is capitalizing on the family name to get a leg up in running for office.  The latter is at least a byproduct of popular will; the former is beyond unseemly.  The cases of Jean Carnahan, Mary Bono, and Lisa Murkowski are recent examples of the practice.

As a practical matter, there’s not much that can be done about it, since state constitutions control these situations and it’s unlikely that people are going to be irritated enough about political nepotism to amend the constitutions of 50 states.  It would be a good idea, though.

While we’re at it, let’s just do away with appointments to fill vacant elective offices altogether.  It makes no sense to have governors anointing their favorites as the prohibitive favorite to win the next election through the power of incumbency.  And, in not infrequent cases, to have governors of the opposite party overturn the will of the people at the last election.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Here in the Duchy of Illinois we’ve just had a fine example of this. Retiring Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, who may be appointed our next senator to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama, timed his resignation from his own seat to ensure that his son (also named Emil Jones) ran unopposed for the seat.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    I remember another Illinois politician that inherited a position in Congress, Dan Lipinski, who a few years ago was the focus of a prog blog effort to oust “Bush Dogs.” Lipinski was particularly denounced because his dad had retired the seat to him. I wonder what those blogs would say about Junior Biden?

  3. Floyd says:

    Just gives you a warm feeling all over, doesn’t it?
    The taxation part is still in tact, but where’s the representation?
    Hope for Change? Sounds more like SOS to me.

  4. Fortunately, there seems to be a never ending supply of Bushes, Kennedys, Carnahans, et al to “rule” over us.

  5. anjin-san says:

    This seems like a bad idea to me. We are already further down the road to oligarchy than I am comfortable with. By change we want, ummmmmm, change.

  6. SavageView says:

    Uh, Beau has said he won’t accept the nomination. But, hey, it’s getting tough out there. Last night, a McCain volunteer was attacked by an Obama supporter who cut her up.

  7. just me says:

    I have no trouble with appointments if they are fairly interim. But I think there should be a special election or at the least a requirement for an election before the next election cycle for that state passes.

    I also think to take the party issue out that governors should be required to appoint a member from the retiring, resigning or deceased senator/house member own party until the special election or new election is held.