Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced Monday he will not seek reelection in 2024 and will retire from the Senate at the end of his current term.
Carper, 76, made the news official during a press conference in Wilmington, Del., Monday morning, where he ticked through the highlights of his career before saying the time has come for him to retire from the upper chamber
“After a good deal of prayer and introspection and more than a few heart-to-heart conversations, we decided I should do neither,” Carper said referring to the possibility of a run next year and then “riding off into the sunset.” “But rather, I should run through the tape in the next 20 months and finish the important work that my staff and I have begun on a wide range of fronts.”
The four-term senator has been at the forefront of Democratic politics for decades in the First State. Prior to winning his seat in 2000, Carper served two terms as Delaware’s governor and in the state’s at-large House seat for a decade beforehand. All told, Carper has won 14 statewide elections.
Carper’s decision creates yet another open primary battle in a Democratic-leaning state. He is the fourth Senate Democrat to announce plans to retire at the end of this term. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) have decided to forego campaigns.
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.
“If the seat was open, I would definitely consider it,” Blunt Rochester, who worked for Carper when he was a House member, told Politico earlier this year. She added she would remain focused on her work in the House, but she would “be prepared for whatever comes.”
Carper said he encouraged Blunt Rochester to seek the seat and that he would support her if she does.
“We love Lisa,” Carper said, noting that he spoke with her Monday morning ahead of his announcement. “I said, ‘You’ve been patient, waiting for me to get out of the way and I’m going to get out of the way, and I hope you run and I hope you’ll let me support you in that mission.’ And she said, ‘Yes, I will let you support me.’ And so I’m going to.”
Carper added he would wait to officially endorse until Blunt Rochester makes her campaign official.
A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Schumer spoke to Blunt Rochester shortly after Carper’s announcement.
“He told her he believes she could be a really good Senator and he looks forward to sitting down with her soon,” the spokesperson added.
If Blunt Rochester runs and wins, she would fill a void as there are no Black female senators in office. Vice President Harris was the most recent one.
The Delaware House member has held her seat since 2017. She has also been a key ally of President Biden, who carries significant political weight in the state he represented in the Senate for nearly four decades. She serves as a co-chairwoman of his 2024 reelection campaign.
Democrats this cycle are defending 20 Senate seats, while Republicans are only doing so for 11, limiting the pickup opportunities for Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is also still waiting on reelection decisions from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The news also has ramifications in Washington as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) would be in line to replace Carper atop the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Updated at 1:19 p.m.