ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe and Teddy Davis Report: Lost in the hullabaloo of Tuesday’s historic presidential election is that Joe Biden was re-elected to the United States Senate from Delaware, defeating Republican Chistine O’Donnell.
Delaware law provides that when a U.S. senator resigns before the end of his term, the state’s governor appoints a replacement who remains in office until the next election which, in this case, is 2010.
It is likely – though not certain – that Biden’s replacement is going to be decided by Governor-elect Jack Markell (D) rather than by outgoing Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. The answer will ultimately turn on when Biden submits his Senate resignation and exactly what time the Jan. 20 gubernatorial inauguration is held.
Just prior to Tuesday’s election, Biden told a local television station that he does not want to resign his Senate seat until the moment he were to become vice president.
Delaware has not determined the time of its Jan. 20, 2009 gubernatorial nomination. But Gov. Minner’s office tells ABC News that the decision is traditionally made by the incoming governor.
Markell has not decided what time he wants to hold his inauguration. But his spokesman says the governor-elect is aware that some Delawareans are interested in attending both the gubernatorial inauguration as well as the Obama-Biden inauguration in Washington, D.C. What’s more, Markell’s spokesman cites the 12:01 am ET swearing-in of Delaware Gov. Pierre S. duPont, IV, in 1981 as a precedent for doing the gubernatorial inauguration as early in the day as possible.
Biden only mentioned his Senate re-election campaign once while stumping for Obama. It came as a brief aside in his speech at Delaware’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner.
"Remember folks, I’m on the ballot," he reminded Blue Hen supporters October 13 in Dover. "Don’t be carried away with this vice-presidential stuff. I am on the ballot running for my seventh term. So don’t forget, don’t stop at the top of that ticket. Walk your way down. You can vote twice for the first time in your life for the same guy and have it be legal."
Some possible replacements to hold Biden’s seat until 2010 include Minner and the senator’s son Beau – the Delaware Attorney General currently in Texas training for a year-long deployment to Iraq. A number of Delaware state officials have also been mentioned as possibilities: Lieutenant Gov. Jack Carney, Supreme Court Chief Justice Myron Steele, and Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor.
"It’s impossible to replace Joe Biden," Markell spokesman Joe Rogalsky told ABC News. "No one is going to do that. But if it becomes apparent that Biden is going to resign after Markell is sworn-in, we will go through the process of finding the best possible replacement."