1972 United States Senate election in Delaware

The 1972 United States Senate election in Delaware was held November 7, 1972. Incumbent Republican United States Senator J. Caleb Boggs ran for a third term in the United States Senate. Boggs faced off against Joe Biden, a New Castle County Councilman. Though Boggs was expected to easily win a third term over Biden, the election ended up being the closest Senate election of the year. Biden narrowly defeated Boggs by 3,162 votes, winning his first of seven U.S. Senate elections. This is the only time Biden lost Sussex County in his seven elections to the Senate. Biden would later be elected vice president in 2008 and president in 2020. Biden became the youngest senator since Rush Holt won in West Virginia in 1934.

1972 United States Senate election in Delaware

← 1966 November 7, 1972 1978 →
  Joe Biden first official photo.jpg BoggsCaleb.jpg
Nominee Joe Biden J. Caleb Boggs
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 116,006 112,844
Percentage 50.5% 49.1%

1972 United States Senate election in Delaware results map by county.svg
US Senate 1972 Delaware by State House District.svg
Results:

Biden:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%

Boggs:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%

U.S. senator before election

J. Caleb Boggs
Republican

Elected U.S. Senator

Joe Biden
Democratic

General electionEdit

CampaignEdit

Longtime Delaware political figure and incumbent Republican Senator J. Caleb Boggs was considering retirement, which would likely have left U.S. Representative Pete du Pont and Wilmington Mayor Harry G. Haskell Jr. in a divisive Senate primary fight. To avoid a potential primary, U.S. President Richard Nixon helped convince Boggs to run again with full party support.

Aside from Biden, a New Castle County Councilman, no Democrats wanted to challenge Boggs.[1] Biden's campaign had virtually no money and was given no chance of winning.[2] The campaign was managed by Biden's sister, Valerie Biden Owens (who would go on to manage his future campaigns), was staffed by other members of the Biden family, and relied upon handed-out newsprint position papers.[3] Biden did receive some assistance from the AFL–CIO and from Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell.[1] Biden's campaign focused on withdrawal from Vietnam, the environment, civil rights, mass transit, more equitable taxation, health care, the public's dissatisfaction with politics-as-usual, and "change".[1][3] Biden would be against giving amnesty to draft dodgers. Despite not supporting the legalization of Marijuana, he would say in a campaign ad that: "the possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor—a minor offense. The police should treat it that way, and devote the greater part of their efforts to heroin.".[4]

During the summer, Biden trailed Boggs by almost 30 percentage points;[1] however, Biden's energy level, attractive young family, and ability to connect with voters' emotions gave him an advantage over the ready-to-retire Boggs.[5] John Marttila would serve as one of his consultants and had previously worked for Robert Drinan's campaign for the US House of Representatives.[3][6] Biden's campaign was described as having "no money to speak of." and relied on positions papers in newspapers and a few campaign advertisements on the radio.[3] One notable advertisement used by the Biden campaign was a brochure printed in newspaper format that contrasted the world view of the two candidates, e.g., (full page) "To Cale Boggs an unfair tax was the 1948 poll tax"; (opposite page) "To Joe Biden an unfair tax is the 1972 income tax."[7] On November 7, 1972, Biden upset Boggs by a margin of 3,162 votes.[3]

Biden would vary his messaging during campaign events throughout the state as well. For example, in the southern parts of the state his pitch would be: “thirty years ago, caring for the environment meant picking up bottles and beer cans on Rehoboth Beach … and now it means saving the beach.” while in the northern parts of the state in the Wilmington area it would be “in 1950, Cale Boggs promised to keep highways growing; in 1970 Joe Biden promises to keep trees growing.”.[4]

A few weeks later on December 18, 1972, Biden’s wife and daughter died in a car crash which injured his sons. Biden was contemplating resigning the Senate and told his brother to talk with governor-elect Sherman W. Tribbitt on his successor. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield persuaded Biden to stay in the Senate for at least six months. Biden was sworn in at the hospital where his sons were recovering. Biden would hold the seat up until his election as Vice President 36 years later.

At the time of the 1972 election, Biden was 29 years old. He turned 30—the minimum age for a U.S. senator—on November 20, 1972, in time for the Senate term beginning January 3, 1973. At the commencement of his Senate term, Biden was the sixth-youngest U.S. Senator in history.[8]

A 2004 book contained a story, allegedly from Frank Sheeran, that in the week prior to Election Day an unidentified lawyer approached Sheeran about preventing the distribution of the local paper because Senator Boggs was running an advertisement unflattering to Biden. Sheeran claimed that he organized a work stoppage, and that Teamsters truck drivers refused to cross a picket line, so the papers were not delivered.[9] The credibility of Sheeran's account has been called into serious question. It conflicts directly with articles in the Wilmington News Journal on the strike, published on November 6 and November 22, 1972. The paper was not printed on the days in question because the Printers Union briefly joined the strike. The paper's deliveries were not shut down for a week, but for two days. The picket line did not come down on the day after the election; rather, the Guild remained on strike until November 22.[citation needed]

Biden was elected President of the United States in November 2020 at age 77. Because of mail-in voting his victory was not official until November 7, 5 days after conventional voting began and the 48th anniversary of his Senate election over Boggs.

CandidatesEdit

  • Joe Biden (D), New Castle County council member[1]
  • J. Caleb Boggs (R), incumbent senator and former Governor of Delaware[10]
  • Henry Majka (A), Prohibition Party candidate in the 1948 Delaware lieutenant gubernatorial election[11]
  • Herbert B. Wood (P)[12]

ResultsEdit

1972 United States Senate election in Delaware[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Joe Biden 116,006 50.48% +9.59%
Republican J. Caleb Boggs (incumbent) 112,844 49.10% −10.02%
American Henry Majka 803 0.35% N/A
Prohibition Herbert B. Wood 175 0.07% N/A
Total votes 229,828 100.00% N/A
Democratic gain from Republican

County resultsEdit

County[14][12] Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

Democratic

James Caleb Boggs

Republican

Henry Majka

American

Herbert B. Wood

Prohibition

Total votes cast
# % # % # % # % #
Kent 14,598 52.36% 13,121 47.06% 140 0.5% 21 0.08% 27,880
New Castle 85,017 50.32% 83,273 49.29% 532 0.31% 133 0.08% 168,955
Sussex 16,391 49.86% 16,450 49.68% 131 0.4% 21 0.06% 32,993
Totals 116,006 50.48% 112,844 49.10% 803 0.35% 175 0.22% 229,828

Results by State representative districtEdit

District[15] Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

Democratic

James Caleb Boggs

Republican

Henry Majka

American

Herbert B. Wood

Prohibition

Total votes cast
District 1 3,398 3,481 17 10 6,906
District 2 2,044 1,052 12 4 3,112
District 3 1,804 1,039 6 2 2,851
District 4 2,112 1,129 4 4 3,249
District 5 3,549 1,357 18 2 4,926
District 6 3,200 3,798 17 9 7,024
District 7 2,836 3,772 25 13 6,646
District 8 2,943 2,911 31 6 5,891
District 9 2,735 2,781 26 7 5,549
District 10 2,835 4,325 11 0 7,171
District 11 2,980 5,280 21 9 8,290
District 12 2,696 4,394 19 4 7,113
District 13 2,420 5,010 29 8 7,467
District 14 3,423 3,589 16 3 7,031
District 15 3,826 2,072 13 0 5,911
District 16 3,127 2,816 20 7 5,970
District 17 2,620 1,662 20 4 4,306
District 18 2,580 1,532 19 5 4,136
District 19 3,295 2,703 11 5 6,014
District 20 3,224 2,209 28 2 5,463
District 21 3,012 2,481 13 3 5,509
District 22 3,248 3,381 23 4 6,656
District 23 3,141 3,108 20 5 6,274
District 24 3,339 2,885 20 2 6,246
District 25 3,369 3,347 11 2 6,729
District 26 2,202 1,927 17 2 4,148
District 27 3,430 4,066 27 5 7,528
District 28 2,575 2,562 24 3 5,164
District 29 3,054 2,604 14 3 5,675
District 30 2,794 2,482 32 2 5,310
District 31 2,633 2,642 32 3 5,310
District 32 2,534 2,792 16 2 5,344
District 33 2,507 2,074 26 5 4,612
District 34 1,141 1,037 9 1 2,188
District 35 2,989 2,094 25 8 5,116
District 36 2,965 2,537 43 9 5,554
District 37 2,882 3,853 20 3 6,758
District 38 2,598 2,432 22 2 5,054
District 39 2,746 2,711 21 3 5,481
District 40 2,617 2,436 11 2 5,066
District 41 2,583 2,481 14 2 5,080
Total 116,006 112,844 803 175 229,828

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Moritz, Charles, ed. (1987). Current Biography Yearbook 1987. New York: H. W. Wilson Company., p. 43.
  2. ^ Broder, John M. (October 23, 2008). "Father's Tough Life an Inspiration for Biden". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e Naylor, Brian (October 8, 2007). "Biden's Road to Senate Took Tragic Turn". NPR. Retrieved September 12, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Newell, Jim (June 11, 2019). "When Joe Biden Was the Candidate of the Young". Slate. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  5. ^ Barone, Michael; Cohen, Richard E. (2008). The Almanac of American Politics. Washington: National Journal Group. ISBN 978-0-89234-117-7., p. 364.
  6. ^ Schudel, Matt (November 10, 2018). "John Marttila, political strategist for Biden, Kerry and other Democrats, dies at 78". The Frederick News-Post (published November 11, 2018). Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  7. ^ Erickson, Bo (June 4, 2019). " "When a young Joe Biden used his opponent's age against him". CBS News.
  8. ^ "U.S. Senate: Youngest Senator".
  9. ^ Brandt, Charles (June 29, 2016). "I Heard You Paint Houses": Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa. ISBN 978-1586422387.
  10. ^ "Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress - Retro Member details". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  11. ^ "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Wood, G to I". politicalgraveyard.com. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  12. ^ a b "Our Campaigns - DE US Senate Race - Nov 07, 1972". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  13. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/1972election.pdf
  14. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/1972election.pdf
  15. ^ Willis, Burton. "STATE OF DELAWARE: Official Results of General Election" (PDF). Delaware Department of Elections (PDF). Retrieved September 8, 2021.