Carper vs. Roth May Turn out to Be One of the Better Races

By Godfrey, John | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 7, 2000 | Go to article overview

Carper vs. Roth May Turn out to Be One of the Better Races


Godfrey, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper's bid this year to unseat Republican Sen. William V. Roth Jr. could be one of the most interesting elections in the nation.

In a state smaller than most congressional districts, two of its most popular men are pitted in a political clash of titans.

Millions will be spent by the opponents and outside groups.

But one of the single most important issues - age - probably will never be mentioned directly by either Mr. Roth, 79, or Mr. Carper, 53.

Mr. Carper, who has never lost an election, will talk of his ability to focus on the "day-to-day concerns" of the average Delaware voter and of the need to look to the "future."

Speaking almost as obliquely, Sen. Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, says "there is a feeling that [Mr. Roth's time in office] has come to an end."

In turn, Mr. Roth will not make much mention of Mr. Carper, instead stressing his 30 years' experience in the Senate and his seniority and power as chairman of the Senate's tax-writing committee.

"We are going to be campaigning based upon Bill Roth's accomplishments," says Joanne Barnhart, spokeswoman for Mr. Roth.

The closest either candidate will come to mentioning age will be a relentless, but soft-spoken, challenge from Mr. Carper to Mr. Roth to debate. So far, Mr. Roth has demurred, contending that his work in Washington will occupy his time until fall, but the issue will remain.

The race is important on a number of levels.

Mr. Roth has had a substantial impact on the taxation of individual retirement accounts and has been a constant voice in the matters of trade.

Delaware, one of just eight states with only one representative, could see the power of its delegation decline enormously.

Control of the Senate, now down to a 54-46 Republican-to-Democrat split, could hinge on the outcome.

And businesses, which have had a friend in Mr. Roth, could find themselves with the more agriculture-minded Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican - or even Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, if Democrats take control - in charge of the Senate Finance Committee.

In many respects, Mr. Roth and Mr. Carper are similar.

Mr. Roth was born in Montana, served in the Army during World War II, moved to Delaware to work for a chemical company and became active in politics. He served two terms in the U.S. House and began his first of five terms in the U.S. Senate in 1970.

Mr. Carper was born in Virginia, served in the Navy as a flight officer during Vietnam and earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Delaware. He served three two-year terms as the state's treasurer, was elected to five terms in the U.S. House, and is finishing the second of two four-year terms as governor.

Both enjoy the benefits of statewide office. In July, Mr. Roth won credit in the press for a $1 million canal project in Lewes County, but he had to share the paper with Mr. Carper's announcement of an 18,000-acre plot set aside for farm preservation.

Both are tax-cutting centrists. Both are pro-environment, Mr. Roth even thwarting fellow Republican efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

The two differ on abortion. Mr. Carper supports abortion rights, while Mr. …

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