|United States Senator
November 15, 2010
Serving with Tom Carper
|Preceded by||Ted Kaufman|
|County Executive of New Castle County|
January 4, 2005 – November 15, 2010
|Preceded by||Thomas P. Gordon|
|Succeeded by||Paul Clark|
|President of the New Castle County Council|
January 2, 2001 – January 4, 2005
|Preceded by||Stephanie L. Hansen|
|Succeeded by||Paul Clark|
|Born||Christopher Andrew Coons
September 9, 1963
|Spouse(s)||Annie Lingenfelter Coons|
|Children||twins Michael & Jack; daughter Maggie|
|Alma mater||Amherst College (B.A.)
Yale Divinity School (M.A.R.)
Yale Law School (J.D.)
Christopher Andrew "Chris" Coons (born September 9, 1963) is the junior United States senator from Delaware and a member of the Democratic Party. He won a special election in 2010 to succeed Joe Biden, who had resigned to become Vice President. Previously, Coons was the county executive of New Castle County. Coons is the 1983 Truman Scholar from Delaware, and the first recipient of the award to serve in the United States Senate.
A native of Hockessin, Delaware, Coons graduated from Amherst College and received graduate degrees from Yale Divinity School and Yale Law School. He went to work as a volunteer relief worker in Kenya, where he had taken classes in the University of Nairobi, later returning to the U.S. to work for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York. He spent some time as a legal clerk in New York before returning to Delaware in 1996, where he spent eight years as in-house counsel for a materials manufacturing company. In the interim he worked for several nonprofit organizations.
He worked on several political campaigns in his early career, including Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign. In college he switched from being a Republican to a Democrat, and in 1996 he became a delegate from Wilmington to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. His political career began in earnest on the New Castle County Council in 2000, where he served as council president. He was elected county executive in 2004 and served for six years. There he balanced the county budget with a surplus in fiscal year 2010 by cutting spending and raising taxes, and the county maintained a AAA bond rating.
Coons won the 2010 special election against the Republican candidate Christine O'Donnell for the U.S. Senate seat then held by Ted Kaufman, who was appointed after Joe Biden resigned. Coons serves on the Budget, Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Energy and Natural Resources committees, chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
Early life and education
Coons was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, the son of Sarah Louise "Sally" (née Ives) and Kenelm Winslow "Ken" Coons. His ancestry includes English and Northern Irish. Coons grew up in Hockessin, Delaware. He graduated from the Tower Hill School and then Amherst College in 1985 with a B.A. in chemistry and political science. In 1983, Chris Coons was awarded the Truman Scholarship. During his junior year of college, Coons studied abroad at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. He earned a M.A.R. from Yale Divinity School and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
After college, Coons worked in Washington, D.C., for the Investor Responsibility Research Center, where he wrote a book on South Africa and the U.S. divestment movement. He then worked as a volunteer for the South African Council of Churches and as a relief worker in Kenya, before returning to the U.S. to work for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York. In 1992, he earned a J.D. degree from Yale Law School, and a master's degree in ethics from Yale Divinity School.
Coons clerked for Judge Jane Richards Roth on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and then worked for the National "I Have a Dream" Foundation in New York. After returning to Delaware in 1996, Coons began his eight-year career as in-house counsel for W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., Newark, Delaware-based makers of Gore-Tex fabrics and other high-tech materials. There he was responsible for the ethics training program, federal government relations, e-commerce legal work, and for general commercial contracting.
He has also worked with several nonprofits, including the Council for the Homeless, the education-oriented “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Delaware, and the South African Council of Churches, and serves on several boards including First State Innovation, the Bear/Glasgow Boys & Girls Club, and the Delaware College of Art & Design.
Early political career
Coons first became involved in politics working on behalf of Republican politicians, first for Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign in 1980 and then for Bill Roth's Senate campaign in 1982. During college, he switched from being a Republican to a Democrat and in 1988, Coons worked as a volunteer for the Senate campaign of Democratic Delaware Lt. Gov. Shien Biau Woo. He was a delegate from Wilmington to the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
His first elected office was president of the New Castle County Council, elected in 2000 and serving four years before being elected county executive in 2004. He was the endorsed candidate of the New Castle County Democratic Party in 2008, and was re-nominated by the party on September 9, 2008. Coons was re-elected on November 4, 2008, unopposed in the general election. In his six years in office as county executive, Coons balanced the budget with a surplus in fiscal year 2010 by cutting spending and raising taxes. New Castle County maintained a AAA bond rating throughout his tenure.
In the first post-primary polls, Rasmussen Reports showed Coons with a double-digit lead over O'Donnell, describing this as a "remarkable turnaround" as the race had been leaning Republican until O'Donnell upset Mike Castle in the Republican primary election. In the first week of October, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind Poll released the results of its research, showing Coons with a 17-point lead, 53%-36%, over O'Donnell, and pointing out that 85% of self-identified Democratic voters had united behind Coons, while only 68% of Republican voters endorsed O'Donnell. Days before the election, a second Fairleigh Dickinson poll showed Coons leading 57% to 36% among likely voters, and leading 72% to 20% among voters who described themselves as moderates. As polls closed at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, multiple news sources announced that Coons had defeated O'Donnell based on exit poll data. Final results gave Coons close to a 17-point margin over O'Donnell, capturing 56.6% of the vote to her 40%.
During the campaign, a controversy arose surrounding an article Coons wrote in 1985 for his college newspaper, entitled "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist". In it, he describes his transformation from a Republican to what Fox News described as a "Democrat suspicious of America's power and ideals." Dave Hoffman, a Coons campaign spokesman, said the title of the article was designed as a humorous take-off on a joke Coons' college friends had made about how his time outside the country had affected his outlook. "After witnessing crushing poverty and the consequences of the Reagan Administration's 'constructive engagement' with the South African apartheid regime, he rethought his political views, returned to the America he loved and proudly registered as a Democrat," Hoffman said in a statement to Politico.
According to Fox News, Coons was "targeted by Republicans" over the 25-year-old piece. Coons himself downplayed the article, as well as controversial past statements by his opponent Christine O'Donnell, saying that voters were interested in current issues such as job creation and the national debt and were not "particularly interested in statements that either of us made 20 or 30 years ago." David Weigel, writing in Slate, opined: "If the Tea Party Express slings the 'bearded Marxist' nonsense, I doubt it will work."
Coons was sworn in-as on November 15, 2010, by Vice President Joe Biden, the former occupant of Coons' seat in the Senate. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was sworn in on the same day, though he took an advantage in seniority over Coons, as the former Governor of West Virginia.
In June 2013, after the death of Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Coons was appointed to his seat on the influential Committee on Appropriations, becoming the first Senator from Delaware to serve on the Committee in 40 years. As a result, Coons gave up his seat on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
In October 2013, Coons announced the formation of the inaugural Senate Chicken Caucus in the United States Senate.
In March 2014, Coons voted against President Obama's nomination of civil rights lawyer Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, even though he believed that Adegbile would have been "an asset to the Justice Department." He stated that voting for a nominee "who would face such visceral opposition from law enforcement on his first day on the job" was troubling and the vote was "one of the most difficult I have taken since joining the Senate". President Obama described the Senate's vote against Adegbile as "a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant," and other observers described Coons's vote as "chicken" and "particularly weaselish."
- Committee on Appropriations
- Committee on Foreign Relations
- Subcommittee on African Affairs (Chairman)
- Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs and International Environmental Protection, and Peace Corps
- Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues
- Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Previous (2010–2013)
- Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
|2000||County Council||Primary||Christopher A. Coons||Democratic||7,520||48%||Vincent D'Anna
Dwight L. Davis
|2000||County Council||General||Christopher A. Coons||Democratic||113,050||56%||Michael Ramone||Republican||87,462||44%|
|2004||County Executive||Primary||Christopher A. Coons||Democratic||17,584||67%||Sherry Freebery
|2004||County Executive||General||Christopher A. Coons||Democratic||131,397||58%||Christopher Castagno||Republican||93,424||42%|
|2008||County Executive||General||Christopher A. Coons||Democratic||194,005||100%|
|2010||United States Senate||General||Christopher A. Coons||Democratic||173,900||56.6%||Christine O'Donnell||Republican||123,025||40%|
Coons is married to the former Annie Lingenfelter. They have three children: Mike, Maggie and Jack. They live in Wilmington, Delaware.
- Darling, Cynthia (October 4, 2010). "Is Christopher Coons Married?". Politics Daily.
- "Meet Chris Coons". Chris Coons for U.S. Senate. Retrieved September 17, 2010. (campaign web site biography)
- Brown, Elizabeth (October 29, 2010). "What Is Christopher Coons' Religion?". Politics Daily.
- "Chris Coons ancestry". Freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
- Yearick, Bob (June 15, 2010). "Castle vs. Coons". Delaware Today. Retrieved September 16, 2010.
- "Chris Coons: Delaware's surprise favorite". CNN. September 15, 2010. Retrieved September 16, 2010.
- "Rodel Foundation Delaware : About". Retrieved November 5, 2010.
- "Board | youth community | service award". Jefferson Awards. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- Chase, Randall. (September 23, 2010) O'Donnell foe's career marked by political shift. Associated Press.
- "Coons for Senate ad claims he balanced county budget as NCCo executive". Wilmington News Journal. September 24, 2010. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- "Fitch Rates New Castle County, DE GOs 'AAA'; Outlook Stable". Business Wire. Forbes. September 9, 2010. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- Chadderdon, Jesse (February 3, 2010). "Coons to challenge Castle for Senate seat". Community News.
- "Election 2010: Delaware Senate". Rasmussen Reports. September 16, 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2010.
- "Poll shows O'Donnell trailing in Del. Senate race". Huffington Post. October 6, 2010.
- "Delaware Senate poll: Chris Coons' wide lead over Christine O'Donnell grows". News Journal. Wilmington, DE. October 28, 2010.
- "2010 Delaware Senate Race". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
- "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist". The Amherst Student. May 23, 1985.
- "46 Days to Decide: Dem Candidate Coons Comes Under Scrutiny in Delaware Senate Race". Fox News. September 17, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
- Isenstadt, Alex (May 4, 2010). "Coons took 'bearded Marxist' turn". Politico.
- Weigel, David (September 17, 2010). "Chris Coons on the Air". Slate. Retrieved September 22, 2010.
- Charles Mahtesian (November 27, 2012). "Coons: Not taking any chances in 2014". Politico. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
- Niels Lesniewski (June 20, 2013). "Coons Gets Lautenberg’s Appropriations Slot". Roll Call.
- "Chris Coons named to Senate Appropriations Committee". Delaware Online. June 21, 2013.
- Vicki Needham (June 20, 2013). "Coons lands coveted slot on Appropriations panel". The Hill.
- National Chicken Council, Delaware Senator Chris Coons Announces Formation of US Senate Chicken Caucus; Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson to Co-chair, Oct. 4, 2013, http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/delaware-senator-chris-coons-announces-formation-us-senate-chicken-caucus-georgia-senator-johnny-isakson-co-chair/
- Reilly, Ryan J. (March 5, 2014). "Chris Coons, Up For Reelection, Caves To Pressure On Civil Rights Nominee". Huffington Post.
- Erickson, Nancy, ed. (2011). Committee and Subcommittee Assignments for the One Hundred Twelfth Congress. United States Government Printing Office.
- Senator Chris Coons official U.S. Senate site
- Chris Coons for Senate
- Chris Coons at DMOZ
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
Stephanie L. Hansen
|President of the New Castle County Council
Thomas P. Gordon
|County Executive of New Castle County
|Party political offices|
|Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator from Delaware
|United States Senate|
|United States Senator (Class 2) from Delaware
Served alongside: Thomas R. Carper
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority