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Joe Biden’s son won’t seek Senate seat vacated by his father

In another blow to the Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, announced Monday that he would not seek to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by his father.

Adding to the party’s woes, Democratic Rep. Marion Berry of Arkansas said he would retire, putting his seat up for grabs in an election year that looks increasingly favorable for the GOP.

Biden, Delaware’s attorney general, had been considered an obvious choice to fill the seat for that state. His announcement came as Democrats reel from last week’s special-election loss in Massachusetts for the seat that had been held for decades by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Berry represents a conservative district that favored Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by 21 percentage points in the 2008 presidential election. Analysts had considered Berry’s reelection likely, but in light of his retirement, some now say the district leans in favor of the GOP. Berry, 67, said in a statement that he was retiring for health reasons.

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The announcements raise the number of Democrat-held seats losing their incumbents to four in the Senate and 12 in the House, adding to the party’s concerns that it could lose its House majority as well as a handful of Senate seats.

Republicans will lose six incumbents in the Senate and 14 in the House, but most of those seats are expected to remain with the party.

“The Democratic Party seems to be heading to a black hole, and it’s sucking in all of their candidates,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan campaign analyst.

Democrats worked hard in 2006 and 2008 to keep retirements to a minimum. But after a year of controlling the House, Senate and White House, it appears the party’s fortunes are turning.

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“There are probably going to be more decisions like this opening up more seats that Republicans can target,” Rothenberg said. “What goes up must go down. Political gravity is working against the Democrats.”

Beau Biden returned last fall from Iraq, where he was deployed with the National Guard. As Delaware’s attorney general he has been consumed with the prosecution of a child assault case. In a letter to supporters, he cited the case as a reason for his decision.

Sen. Ted Kaufman, who was appointed to stand in for Joe Biden through the end of this year, said when he accepted the job that he would not be a candidate in 2010. Kaufman reiterated that position in a statement Monday.

The assumption that Beau Biden would eventually announce his candidacy for the Delaware seat has allowed the GOP candidate, Rep. Michael N. Castle, to campaign for months without a Democratic opponent.

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Castle had $1.7 million in cash on hand at the end of 2009, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

kim.geiger@latimes.com


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