U.S. Senator Tom Carper Announces He Will Not Run for Re-Election in 2024
Today, along the banks of the Wilmington Riverfront, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced his intention not to run for re-election following the end of his term in 2024:
“Some 59 years have passed since I first raised my right hand as a 17-year-old Navy ROTC midshipman and took an oath to defend our country and its Constitution. I never imagined then that I would take the oath again and again as a naval flight officer and P-3 aircraft mission commander in an active duty and reserve career that would span some 23 years before I retired with the rank of captain. Today, I am the last Vietnam veteran serving in the United States Senate.
“With the unwavering support and encouragement of our President over the years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as Delaware’s state treasurer after being elected at the age of 29. I went on to defeat a three-term incumbent congressman, setting the stage to win two terms as Delaware’s governor. Working with Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature, we focused every day on strengthening the basic building blocks of our society: families. We reformed welfare and our school system, preserved open space, recruited 10,000 mentors, and created more jobs over an eight-year period than any eight-year period in the history of our state. I also served as chairman and vice chairman of the National Governors’ Association, one of only two Delaware governors to ever do so.
“It was Joe Biden who encouraged me to run for the Senate in my last year as governor. Once in the Senate, I sought and won a seat on several committees, including the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. I still remain a senior member of that committee today, and I have the privilege of leading the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, along with my fellow native West Virginian Shelley Capito. I’m also privileged to chair the Trade Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee with ranking member John Cornyn of Texas.
“As last year came to a close and the new one began, Martha and I began to focus on what I should do next. If I ran for a fifth term in the Senate and won, it would be a record 15 statewide elections. After a good deal of prayer and introspection, and more than a few heart-to-heart conversations, we’ve decided we should run through the tape over the next 20 months and finish the important work that my staff and I have begun on a wide range of fronts, many of them begun in partnership with Democrat and Republican colleagues in the Senate and in the House.
“At the top of the list is to oversee the implementation of major portions of our massive Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with its major climate provisions, that I helped to write, along with the transformational clean energy tax provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. Implementation of both laws is indispensable if we are ultimately to win the battle against global warming while creating tens of millions of American jobs in the years to come.
“The great privilege of my life has been the opportunity to serve the people of the First State and of the United States in so many different roles for so many years. I’ve never felt the gratitude and affection of so many Delawareans as I feel today when traveling through our Small Wonder. It is palpable, it is a source of joy, and it is deeply, deeply appreciated.”
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Some 59 years have passed since I first raised my right hand as a 17-year-old Navy ROTC midshipman at Ohio State University and took an oath to defend our country and its Constitution. I never imagined then that I would take that oath again and again as a naval flight officer and P-3 aircraft mission commander in an active duty and reserve career that would span some 23 years before I retired with the rank of captain. Those years included three tours in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and their culmination coincided with the end of the Cold War. Today, I am the last Vietnam veteran serving in the United States Senate.
Mark Twain once said that the two most important days of our lives are the day we were born and the day we figured out why. In the spring of my freshman year at OSU, a number of my fellow midshipman and I were invited by the commanding officer of our Navy ROTC unit to go on an all expense paid five-day trip over spring break – not to Ft. Lauderdale or Cancun, but to Quantico, Virginia where Marines Corps officers undergo much of their training. With some trepidation, a dozen or so of us accepted that invitation, and a month later, we were on our way to Quantico. The morning of our last day there, we learned that our orientation was complete, and we were free to take a train — if we wanted — and head to our nation’s Capital an hour or so away. All of us jumped at the opportunity.
By the time our train pulled into Union Station, most of my colleagues had decided to head for Georgetown to “look for girls,” and they asked if I’d like to join them. Tempted though I was, I declined and said I thought I’d head, instead, for Capitol Hill to see what I could find there. Their response was, “Really?”
Undaunted, I walked that day from Union Station up Delaware Avenue, past the Capitol and wandered into the recently-completed Rayburn House Office Building. It was 1965. I learned there that a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee was underway. The subject? The Voting Rights Act of 1965. After waiting in line for over an hour, I was finally admitted into the crowded hearing room, found a seat and was soon mesmerized by the political drama unfolding before us.
Two hours later, I glanced at my watch and realized if I didn’t leave right away, I’d miss our train back to Quantico. So, I ran out of Rayburn, past the Capitol and down Delaware Avenue to Union Station and found my comrades. We climbed onto our train and off we went. Not surprisingly, they told me they didn’t find any girls, or at least any that had any interest in them. They went on to ask me what I’d found that day. I told them I thought I may have found my future.
Four years later, I’d graduated and was commissioned an ensign in the Navy and headed – first to Pensacola Naval Air Station and, then, to Corpus Christi Naval Air Station where I would earn my wings as a naval flight officer.
Before completing my training there and joining my California-based P-3 squadron, my roommate – a Baltimore native – and I took advantage of a three-day weekend to catch rides on several military aircraft that eventually took us back to the East Coast. We ended up at Dover Air Force Base where we found out there were no buses and no bus station! But, we also learned at base ops, that military personnel in uniform were welcomed to stand at the main gate where drivers would sometimes stop and offer them a ride. After an hour of waiting, a milk truck — of all things — pulled up and offered us a ride to Baltimore and off we went!
The ride we took that day was one I’ll never forget. It was an absolutely gorgeous spring morning, much like today, and we had the opportunity to take in the First State in all of its beauty for mile after mile after mile. I’ll never forget that day or that ride. I was truly smitten by Delaware, and if truth be known, I still am today.
The four years that followed took me to the Bay Area in California where I joined Patrol Squadron 40 – a unit of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet — for the first of three six-month deployments to Southeast Asia. Over a four-year period, we tracked Soviet submarines from as far north as the Sea of Japan all the way into the Indian Ocean, and across broad reaches of the Pacific Ocean.
We also flew scores of low-level missions throughout the South China Sea, tracking infiltrator trawlers attempting to resupply the Viet Cong in their effort to overthrow our ally, the government of South Vietnam. On those missions, we sought to turn over those trawlers to the U.S. Navy’s Swift Boats or to units of the U. S. Coast Guard for boarding in order to learn whether they were carrying weaponry and other contraband or only fish.
The commanding officer of one of those Swift Boats was John Kerry, a highly decorated Navy combat veteran who later became a vocal opponent of the War and later ended up in the U.S. Senate. I joined him there in 2001, but not before serving a decade in the U.S. House.
During that decade, encouraged by then-President George H.W. Bush, I led a bipartisan House Congressional Delegation in 1991 to a post-war united Vietnam. There we met with, and presented to that country’s brand new leader, a roadmap from the Bush Administration to normalize relations if the Vietnamese would provide, in turn, information on hundreds – maybe thousands – of our MIA’s. Thanks in no small part to the strong encouragement of Senators John McCain and John Kerry, the Vietnamese ultimately agreed to do so.
In time, our two countries normalized relations and began a diplomatic journey that has led us to the formation of an ever-stronger relationship between our two countries today. It also led to a partnership between Senators Kerry, McCain and me on climate change and other environmental issues that continues bearing fruit to this day, despite the death of John McCain to brain cancer in 2018.
Another close friend of John McCain in the Senate would turn out to be Delaware’s Joe Biden who was elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29 when he was still too young to serve in the Senate. I remember reading about him in both Time and Newsweek while deployed with my squadron that fall in Southeast Asia.
Eighteen months later, I found myself sitting in his living room, a half-dozen miles from the University of Delaware’s campus.
After completing close to five years of active duty, I had resigned from my regular commission in the Navy, accepted a commission in the Naval Reserve, sought and won admission into the University of Delaware’s MBA program and affiliated as a mission commander with one of the two Navy P-3 squadrons that had only recently been assigned to Naval Air Station Willow Grove, PA, located an hour-and-a-half from the University.
During my second year of graduate school, I met Dr. Jim Soles, a legendary and beloved professor in political science at the University who was planning to run in a long-shot campaign for Delaware’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against the Republican incumbent Congressman Pete DuPont in 1974. I volunteered to help in the campaign. In a remarkable turn of events, three months later, while still carrying a full course load in the University’s MBA program and flying with my reserve squadron on weekends, Dr. Soles asked me to become the campaign’s unpaid treasurer and fundraiser. I accepted, and later that summer joined Dr. Soles and several of his senior advisors – all still in our 20’s — in a meeting at the home of Delaware’s junior senator, still fresh from his upset win a year earlier over Delaware political icon Caleb Boggs. There, 31-year-old Joe Biden shared with us the roadmap that he and his campaign team followed to victory two years earlier.
Joe Biden and his team could not have been more helpful to Dr. Soles and his youthful braintrust. Little did I imagine when that first meeting concluded that it would lead to a friendship that has lasted nearly 50 years, enabling both Joe Biden and me to serve Delaware and our country for a long, long, time.
With the unwavering support and encouragement of our President over the years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as Delaware’s state treasurer after being elected at the age of 29 when our state had the worst credit rating in the country, and then go on to defeat a three-term incumbent congressman before leading the effort to clean up and center Delaware’s Democratic Party and setting the stage to win two terms as Delaware’s governor.
Working with Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature, we focused every day during those eight years on strengthening the basic building block of our society — families – by reforming welfare and our school system, while preserving open space, recruiting 10,000 mentors, earning a AAA credit rating and creating more jobs over an eight-year period than any eight-year period in the history of our state. And, oh yes! Somehow along the way, we found the time for me to serve as chairman and vice chairman of the National Governors’ Association, one of only two Delaware governors ever to so do.
It has been my privilege to support Joe Biden’s reelection to the Senate many times, as well as his election to the Vice Presidency and to the Presidency. Meanwhile, he has encouraged me every step of the way.
In fact, it was Joe Biden who reached out to me in my last year as governor to urge me to run for the Senate seat then held by another Delaware icon for 30 years. In the weeks that followed, Martha and I concluded that we needed more people in the Senate who think and act like governors. In the end, I took the plunge, and the rest is history!
Once in the Senate, I sought and won a seat on several committees, including the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Encouraged by my longtime friend, Senator Joe Lieberman, I also sought and won a seat on the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, which soon thereafter became the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs a year later following 9-11.
I still remain the senior member of that committee today; however, when serving as its chairman a half dozen years ago, with the late Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) I helped lead our nation’s efforts to defend America against a host of threats, both foreign and domestic, while also leading the attack in the Senate on wasteful spending throughout much of the federal government.
Today, I have the privilege of leading the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, along with my fellow native West Virginian Shelley Capito. I’m also privileged to chair the Trade Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, where the ranking member is Texas Republican John Cornyn. I regard both as good friends and valued colleagues.
Speaking of the Finance Committee, a dozen years ago after a long struggle, I finally won a seat on the highly sought after Senate Finance Committee. But as a relatively junior member at that time, I was fortunate to author and coauthor a number of provisions that became part of the Affordable Care Act whose passage I still consider one of the highlights of my work in the Senate.
Today, I am blessed with one of the finest staffs in the Senate, both in Washington, DC and in each of our three county offices in Delaware.
They have been providing exemplary constituent services to Delawareans for 22 years, and enabled me to author and floor manage what may be the most far-reaching bipartisan infrastructure bill in U.S. history, while also coauthoring the Inflation Reduction Act. That transformational clean energy legislation is enabling us to address the grave challenges that climate change poses for the future of our nation and our planet. And by the way, the cost of both bills is fully offset. That’s right! Fully offset!
Let me add here as an aside, that serving on the Environment and Public Works Committee for over two decades has been a labor of love that I will always cherish.
Our committee enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a workhorse committee and one whose members work across the aisle to develop and deliver bipartisan solutions that are lasting solutions.
But, an even greater blessing has been my marriage to the former Martha Ann Stacy, a native of Boone, North Carolina, and a remarkable wife and partner who has stood by my side for over 37 years and been a source of encouragement and invaluable advice and counsel on more occasions than I can count. Martha is the mother of our Christopher and Ben, two young men that almost anyone would be proud to call their own. She was a trail blazer during her 27-year career with the DuPont Company and went on to teach for another decade at the University of Delaware.
For eight years, she served as an exemplary First Lady of Delaware where she focused her passion on improving literacy in the early grades and has served in numerous ways across our State. I’m lucky to have found such a supportive partner!
As last year came to a close and the new one began, Martha and I began to focus on what I should do next – run for a fifth term in the Senate which – if I won – would be a record 15 statewide elections or ride off into the sunset and call it a day.
After a good deal of prayer and introspection, and more than a few heart-to-heart conversations, we’ve decided I should do neither but, rather, run through the tape over the next 20 months and finish the important work that my staff and I have begun on a wide range of fronts, many of them begun in partnership with Democrat and Republican colleagues in the Senate and in the House.
At the top of the list is to oversee the implementation of major portions of our massive bipartisan infrastructure law with its major climate provisions, that I helped to write and floor manage, along with the transformational clean energy tax provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Implementation of both laws is indispensable if we are ultimately to win the battle against global warming while creating tens of millions of American jobs in the years to come.
Looking ahead, the other priorities that I’ll continue to aggressively pursue fall into a handful of buckets: among them are these:
- Number one: Clean Energy, Global Warming, Economic Growth and the Environment
For example, we need to chart a bipartisan path forward on permitting legislation that accelerates the deployment of clean energy projects to help us meet our climate goals and create jobs while adhering to our bedrock environmental laws and maintaining protections for environmental justice communities.
The second bucket is Tax and Trade which includes:
- Making certain that the IRS has the resources needed to better ensure that all Americans are paying their fair share of taxes and that taxpayers assistance is readily available to all who need it.
- Also, in this bucket, as Chair of the Senate Trade Subcommittee, I’ll help lead the effort to expand U.S. economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific while advocating for stronger environmental
standards in future trade agreements that help facilitate the transition to a clean energy economy.
The third bucket is Health Care:
- We need to ensure that federal funding for school-based child mental health services is delivered as promised while we continue to grow support for Hospital at Home programs that facilitate home-based care, saving money and improving outcomes.
- Ensuring that the pharmaceutical pricing legislation provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act are fully implemented.
- And – last but not least – is to better understand the important role that Pharmacy Benefit Managers play in increasing today’s soaring prescription drug costs and develop legislation to address it.
The fourth bucket is Workforce:
- Introduce career scholarship legislation, a new proposal to invest in American workers and address the widespread hiring challenges facing many employers across America.
A fifth bucket includes a number of Delaware Specific Initiatives:
While there are too many to list here today, among the many Delaware specific initiatives that I’ll continue to focus on are:
- Launching the Port of Wilmington expansion, and also supporting funding for coastal protection and for our state’s magnificent and vital wildlife refuges.
And last but not least, I will continue Supporting the Biden Administration:
- By continuing to defend truly needed regulations. as promulgated.
- Confirming exemplary nominees of the president.
- And last but not least, supporting the reelection of the Biden-Harris ticket.
In closing, let me return to my efforts over 30 years ago to help center and clean up the Democratic Party in our state. These efforts have borne great fruit. Every statewide office in Delaware is now held by a Democrat. Every one!
Our party enjoys supermajorities in both houses of the General Assembly and on New Castle County Council, our most populous county, as well as a majority on the Levy Court in Kent County, where Dover is located. The mayor of Wilmington, our largest city, and the County Executive of New Castle County, are both Democrats.
While nothing is forever, the Delaware Democratic Party is blessed today with a bench as strong as any I’ve ever seen in the 50 years that I’ve called Delaware home. If there was ever an opportune time to step aside and pass the torch to the next generation, it’s coming, and it will be here on January 3, 2025. But, until then, God willing, I’ll continue working 60-hour weeks and coming home on the train most nights as long as Martha keeps leaving the light on for me.
Let me close with this. I have lived a charmed and blessed life. I have much for which to be grateful, deeply grateful. And to be honest with you, a lot of the credit belongs to my parents and grandparents, all of whom were born near the coal mining town of Beckley, West Virginia. But, nothing tops the privilege of being married to Martha for the past 37 years and helping to raise our two wonderful sons. We are also blessed with a wonderful stepson Greg and four bonus grandchildren. The other great privilege of my life has been the opportunity to serve the people of the First State and of these United States in so many different roles for so many years.
Despite my efforts to win the hearts and minds of every single Delawarean over 14 statewide elections, I know there are still one or two Delawareans out there who harbor some doubts about me. Fortunately, though, they’re pretty quiet about it these days.
Having said that, I’ve never felt the gratitude and affection of so many Delawareans as I feel today when traveling through our Small Wonder. It is palpable, it is a source of joy, and it is deeply, deeply appreciated.