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Thomas R. Carper

Assumed office 
January 3, 2001
Serving with Ted Kaufman
Preceded by William V. Roth, Jr.

In office
January 19, 1993 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Dale E. Wolf
Succeeded by Ruth Ann Minner

In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Thomas B. Evans, Jr.
Succeeded by Michael N. Castle

In office
1977 – 1982

Born January 23, 1947 (1947-01-23) (age 62)
Beckley, West Virginia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Diane Beverly Isaacs (div)
Martha Ann Stacy
Residence Wilmington, Delaware
Alma mater Ohio State University
Profession Economist
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1968-1991
Rank Captain
Unit Naval Flight Officer/Reserves
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Thomas Richard "Tom" Carper (born January 23, 1947) is an American politician from Wilmington, in New Castle County, Delaware. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of the Democratic Party, who served five terms as United States Representative from Delaware, two terms as Governor of Delaware and currently is the senior United States Senator from Delaware.


Early life and family

Carper was born in Beckley, West Virginia, son of Wallace Richard and Mary Jean Patton Carper. He grew up in Danville, Virginia and graduated from Whetstone High School in Columbus, Ohio. He then graduated from the Ohio State University in 1968, where he was in the U.S. Navy ROTC and earned a degree in economics. Serving as a Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy from 1968 until 1973, he saw active duty in Vietnam, flying submarine hunting airplanes. He remained in the U.S. Naval Reserve for another 18 years and retired with the rank of Captain. Meanwhile he moved to Delaware and earned an MBA from the University of Delaware in 1975. Carper has been married twice, first in 1978, to Diane Beverly Isaacs, a former Miss Delaware, who had two children by a previous marriage. Following a 1983 divorce, he married Martha Ann Stacy in 1985, and with her he has two children, Christopher and Benjamin. They are members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

Professional and political career

While in college at the Ohio State University, Carper worked on the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy, the Minnesota peace candidate. Once in Delaware he was campaign treasurer for University of Delaware professor James R. Soles in his unsuccessful 1974 campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. Upon receiving his MBA degree in 1975, Carper went to work for the State of Delaware in its economic development office. In 1976, with his good contacts in the Democratic Party leadership, no other obvious Democratic candidate, and a $5,000 personal loan, Carper convinced the party leaders, and later the voters, that he was the right person to be Delaware State Treasurer. Defeating the favored Republican Party candidate, Theodore Jones, he served three terms, from January 18, 1977 through January 3, 1983, during which time he led the development of Delaware's first cash management system.

U.S. House of Representatives

It took a considerable amount of persuasion on the part of U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and others to convince Carper to leave his obscure, but safe, Treasurer position and compete for Delaware's only seat in the U. S. House of Representatives in 1982. Thomas B. Evans, Jr., the incumbent Republican was running again, and although he had been caught in a compromising "association" on a golfing trip with the young lobbyist Paula Parkinson, he was still a formidable and well-connected politician.

The campaign was going well for Carper until three weeks before Election Day, when the New York Post published an article claiming that the "dirtiest campaign in the country is being waged in tiny Delaware." Retelling the well-known story of Evans' golfing trip, it went on to charge Carper with abusive behavior to his wife and stepchildren. But the story actually ended up working to Carper's political advantage when it became suspected that the allegations were planted by an Evans supporter and when public opinion seemed to conclude that the allegations were inappropriately exploiting a private issue.[1]

Carper went on to serve five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. To win his second term in 1984, he defeated Elise R.W. du Pont, the wife of former Governor Pierre S. du Pont, IV. He then had easy victories over Republicans Thomas S. Neuberger in 1986, James P. Krapf in 1988 and Ralph O. Williams in 1990. As a U.S. Representative, he was a member of the U.S. House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs and the U.S House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries. He chaired the House Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization. In these positions he worked to allow banks into the securities business and to discourage the dumping of sludge into the ocean.

During his years in the U. S. House of Representatives Carper sought to gain better control of the Democratic Party organization in Delaware that he hoped someday would help him become Governor. Heavily Democratic and with over half of the population of the state, New Castle County was the key. Its Democratic organization was controlled by Eugene T. Reed, a former ironworker, and old-time political party boss, who was then among several politicians in both parties implicated in illegal money raising practices. To clean this up, along with the reputation of the Democratic Party, Carper recruited Joseph E. Reardon, a DuPont Company chemist, and worked tirelessly to see him elected New Castle County Democratic Party chairman. By early 1989, he was successful, and Reardon replaced Reed at the head of a newly reformed party organization. In 1990 Carper faced a primary challenge from a Reed ally, Daniel D. Rappa, but crushed him convincingly and went on to win election to his fifth term as U.S. Representative.

Governor of Delaware

In the small and intimate political community of Delaware important decisions are often made by a consensus of leaders in both parties. So it was in 1992, when popular incumbent Governor Michael N. Castle was forced to retire due to term limits. The result was what became known as "the Swap." Castle ran for Carper's seat in the U. S. House of Representatives and Carper ran for Governor. Neither faced any significant opposition and Delaware retained the services of two very popular office holders.

So, in 1992, Carper was elected Governor of Delaware, defeating the Republican candidate, B. Gary Scott and ended up serving two terms. As a moderate, business oriented Democrat and the successor to 16 years of the two very competent and popular Republican administrations of Pierre S. du Pont, IV and Michael N. Castle, Governor Carper chose to govern much the same way, adding his particular interest and talent in economic development and business recruitment. Two special successes were stopping the feared closing of the huge General Motors automobile operation near Newport, Delaware and winning the contest with Pennsylvania for the location of the headquarters of pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca.

Continuing du Pont's tax cutting policies, he led an ongoing effort to reduce income tax rates, eliminate the marriage penalty and estate tax, cut the public utility tax, and eliminate the gross receipts tax for many small businesses. By doing so, his administration improved the state's credit rating from among the worst in the nation to an excellent "AAA". In educational programs, he continued Castle's standards-based education programs, raising standards, testing students, and pushing through a teacher accountability bill. Other programs included a fully funded Head Start program and creation of a prescription drug benefit for seniors.

Carper's independent, New Democrat approach made him popular among voters, but caused grumbling among old line Democrats, particularly union leaders, who complained that not enough of them were getting patronage jobs after the many years of Republican control.[2] In an era of increasingly bitter, partisan politics, Carper's actions and policies headed for the political center, in keeping with Delaware's consensus governing style.

Running for a second term in 1996 he faced Republican State Treasurer Janet C. Rzewnicki. Knowing that she needed a major issue to have a chance of defeating him, she repeated the mistake made by Thomas B. Evans, Jr. in Carper's first race for the U. S. House of Representatives. Three weeks before the election, Ann Stone, the chairwoman of "Republicans for Choice," came to Wilmington and repeated rumors she had heard of divorce proceedings, domestic violence, and secret court filings. These were immediately and emphatically refuted by Carper's wife, Martha, and her employer, the DuPont Company. In an extraordinary intervention, the Chief Judge of Family Court, Vincent J. Poppiti, wrote in a formal order, that "there have been no filings at any time... regarding the marriage of...Carper." Even the Republican state chairman, Basil Battaglia weighed in saying, "This is not the way we do politics in Delaware." Carper won the election in a landslide and Rzewnicki was ousted from her position as State Treasurer two years later when her term expired.[3]

The most poignant event of this time, though, was the murder of Carper's personal scheduler, Anne Marie Fahey and the eventual conviction of Thomas J. Capano for the crime. Capano was a wealthy, well-connected lawyer, known to nearly everyone in Delaware's political community. Fahey, an attractive 30 year old member of another well-known family, was attempting to end a romantic relationship with the married Capano, when he murdered her and dumped her body in the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly built the case against Capano. Capano was tried and convicted, and then sentenced by Delaware Superior Court Judge William Swain Lee.

As a tribute to Fahey, who had been a youth mentor, then-Governor Carper also became a mentor, and began actively promoting mentoring programs throughout Delaware's business community. As a result, by the end of his last term, Delaware held the highest per-capita ratio of youth mentors in the country. Carper established the Delaware Mentoring Council to help sustain this important legacy.

Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
Year Assembly Senate Majority President
pro tempore
House Majority Speaker
1993–1994 137th Democratic Richard S. Cordrey Republican Terry R. Spence
1995–1996 138th Democratic Richard S. Cordrey Republican Terry R. Spence
1997–1998 139th Democratic Thomas B. Sharp Republican Terry R. Spence
1999–2000 140th Democratic Thomas B. Sharp Republican Terry R. Spence

United States Senator

The elections of 2000 were going to bring a change in Delaware's political lineup. For 16 years the same four people had held the four major statewide positions. Because of term limits on the Governor's position Carper had to retire. Both he and U. S. Representative Michael N. Castle wanted to be U.S. Senator. Incumbent Senator William V. Roth, Jr. would not retire voluntarily and fellow Republican Castle would not force him into a primary. In a contest between two popular and respected politicians, the issue seemed to be Roth's age versus Carper's relative youth. Carper defeated Roth by over ten points. However, Roth received more votes than Presidential candidate George W. Bush, suggesting the strength of the Democratic turnout was a boon to Carper's candidacy and a key element of his victory.

Carper won reelection to a second term in 2006 against Republican candidate Jan C. Ting in 2006. He has served with the Democratic Party minority in the 108th and 109th Congresses, and is part of the Democratic majority in the 110th Congress. During the 107th Congress the Democratic Party began in the minority, but held the majority for the later part of the Congress. Carper is a member of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), of which he presently serves as Vice-Chairman. In December 2004 Carper became a part of the Senate Democratic Leadership. As a member of a four person "Executive Committee," he is one of four deputy whips. David Broder of the Washington Post called Carper, "a notably effective and nonpartisan leader, admired and trusted on both sides of the aisle." Carper has worked to institute a national energy policy, a balanced budget, strong environmental protections, welfare reform, and national education standards.

Carper joined in the unsuccessful attempt to tie the Bush administration tax cuts to deficit reduction and has supported additional funding for school choice programs and charter schools. He has also sought additional funding for railroad projects and for rail security. Carper has been a leader on Postal reform issues, limiting Internet taxation, and expanding emission controls. He strongly supported legislation to limit class action lawsuits and also changing the law to restrict personal bankruptcy. In addition, he is a strong proponent of free trade. Carper proposed the creation of a National Park in Delaware, the Coastal Heritage Park, to be in four locations along the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. In January 2009 Carper briefly chaired a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the Tennessee Valley Authority's coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee.

Unlike most Senators, who maintain residences both in Washington, D.C. and in their home state, Carper commutes more than 100 miles by train from his home in Wilmington to the United States Capitol. Carper says this arrangement has helped his family to live a normal life despite his demanding, high-profile job.[4]


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. The Governor and State Treasurer take office the third Tuesday of January. The Governor has a four year term and the State Treasurer had a two year term at this time. U.S. Representatives take office January 3 and have a two year term. U.S. Senators also take office January 3, but have a six year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
State Treasurer Executive Dover January 18, 1977 January 16, 1979
State Treasurer Executive Dover January 16, 1979 January 20, 1981
State Treasurer Executive Dover January 20, 1981 January 3, 1983 resigned
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1983 January 3, 1985
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1985 January 3, 1987
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1987 January 3, 1989
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1989 January 3, 1991
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1991 January 3, 1993
Governor Executive Dover January 19, 1993 January 21, 1997
Governor Executive Dover January 21, 1997 January 3, 2001 resigned
U.S. Senator Legislative Washington January 3, 2001 January 3, 2007
U.S. Senator Legislative Washington January 3, 2007 January 3, 2013
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1983–1984 98th U.S. House Democratic Ronald W. Reagan Financial Services, Fisheries at-large
1985–1986 99th U.S. House Democratic Ronald W. Reagan Financial Services, Fisheries at-large
1987–1988 100th U.S. House Democratic Ronald W. Reagan Financial Services, Fisheries at-large
1989–1990 101st U.S. House Democratic George H. W. Bush Financial Services, Fisheries at-large
1991–1992 102nd U.S. House Democratic George H. W. Bush Financial Services, Fisheries at-large
2001–2002 107th U.S. Senate Democratic George W. Bush Banking, Environment, Homeland Security, Aging class 1
2003–2004 108th U.S. Senate Republican George W. Bush Banking, Environment, Homeland Security, Aging class 1
2005–2006 109th U.S. Senate Republican George W. Bush Banking, Environment, Homeland Security, Aging class 1
2007–2009 110th U.S. Senate Democratic George W. Bush Banking, Commerce, Environment, Homeland Security, Aging class 1
2009–2011 111th U.S. Senate Democratic Barack Obama Environment, Finance, Homeland Security class 1
Election results
Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1976 State Treasurer General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 118,159 56% T. Theodore Jones Republican 92,472 43%
1978 State Treasurer General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 91,809 59% Rita Justice Republican 63,011 40%
1980 State Treasurer General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 125,204 59% Lynn Jankus Republican 83,446 40%
1982 U.S. Representative General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 98,533 52% Thomas B. Evans, Jr. Republican 87,153 46%
1984 U.S. Representative General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 142,070 58% Elise R.W. du Pont Republican 100,650 41%
1986 U.S. Representative General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 106,351 66% Thomas S. Neuberger Republican 53,767 33%
1988 U.S. Representative General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 158,338 68% James P. Krapf Republican 76,179 32%
1990 U.S. Representative Primary Thomas R. Carper Democratic 24,557 90% Daniel D. Rappa Democratic 2,676 10%
1990 U.S. Representative General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 116,274 66% Ralph O. Williams Republican 58,037 33%
1992 Governor Primary Thomas R. Carper Democratic 36,600 89% Daniel D. Rappa Democratic 4,434 11%
1992 Governor General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 179,268 66% B. Gary Scott Republican 90,747 34%
1996 Governor General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 188,300 70% Janet C. Rzewnicki Republican 82,654 30%
2000 U.S. Senator General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 181,566 56% William V. Roth, Jr. Republican 142,891 44%
2006 U.S. Senator General Thomas R. Carper Democratic 170,567 70% Jan C. Ting Republican 69,734 29%


  1. ^ Cohen, Celia. Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State. pp. 293–295.  
  2. ^ Cohen, Celia. Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State.  
  3. ^ Cohen, Celia. Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State. pp. 401–402.  
  4. ^ Ann Manser. "UD Messenger Volume 10, Number 3".  


  • Barone, Michael; Richard E. Cohen (2005). Almanac of American Politics. Washington: National Journal Group. ISBN 0-89234-112-2.  
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6.  
  • Boyer, William W. (2000). Governing Delaware. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press. ISBN 1-892142-23-6.  
  • Cohen, Celia (2002). Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State. Newark, Delaware: Grapevine Publishing.  

External links

Places with more information

United States Senate
Preceded by
William V. Roth, Jr.
United States Senator (Class 1) from Delaware
January 3, 2001 – present
Served alongside: Joe Biden, Ted Kaufman
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Bill Nelson
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Debbie Stabenow


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