1972 United States Senate election in Delaware

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United States Senate election in Delaware, 1972

← 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%

Delaware election results, NC Kent Democrat, Sussex Republican.svg
County results

U.S. Senator before election

J. Caleb Boggs

Elected U.S. Senator

Joe Biden

The United States Senate election in Delaware, 1972 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 Senator Boggs was expected to easily win a third term over the then-unknown Biden, it ended up being the closest Senate election in 1972, and Biden narrowly beat out Boggs by a little over three thousand votes, winning what would be his first of seven terms.

General election campaign[edit]

Longtime Delaware political figure and Republican incumbent 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 primary fight. To avoid that, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon helped convince Boggs to run again with full party support.

No other Democrat wanted to run against Boggs besides Biden, a New Castle County Councilman.[1] Biden's campaign had virtually no money and was given no chance of winning.[2] It was managed by his sister Valerie Biden Owens (who would go on to manage his future campaigns as well) and staffed by other members of his family, and relied upon handed-out newsprint position papers.[3] Biden did receive some assistance from the AFL-CIO and Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell.[1] Biden's campaign issues 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]

During the summer Biden trailed by almost 30 percentage points,[1] but his energy level, his attractive young family, and his ability to connect with voters' emotions gave the surging Biden an advantage over the ready-to-retire Boggs.[4] Biden won the November 7, 1972 election in an upset by a margin of 3,162 votes.[3]

It was revealed in 2004 that in the week prior to Election Day an unidentified representative of the Biden campaign (described as the campaign's legal counsel) approached Teamsters Local 326 President - and Mafia hitman - Frank Sheeran about preventing the distribution of the Wilmington News Journal because Sen. Boggs was running an advertisement unflattering to Biden. In exchange for undisclosed considerations and because Sheeran felt "Biden was better for labor anyway," the Teamsters Union organized a strike preventing the newspapers from being delivered. Additionally a shipment of newspaper printing materials had been sabotaged. As a result, the Wilmington News Journal was not distributed in the week prior to Election day. It is unclear whether Biden himself was aware of the plot but after the election Sheeran said he "could always reach out to [Biden] and he would listen." [5][6]

At the time of the election Biden was a little less than 30 years old; age 30 is a constitutional requirement for the U.S. Senate, and he reached that on November 20, in time for the Senate term beginning January 3. After his election he became the sixth-youngest Senator in history.[7]


United States Senate election in Delaware, 1972[8]
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%
Prohibition Herbert B. Wood 175 0.07%
Majority 3,162 1.38% -16.86%
Turnout 229,828
Democratic gain from Republican Swing

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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 Naylor, Brian (October 8, 2007). "Biden's Road to Senate Took Tragic Turn". NPR. Retrieved September 12, 2008.
  4. ^ Barone, Michael; Cohen, Richard E. (2008). The Almanac of American Politics. Washington: National Journal Group. ISBN 0-89234-117-3., p. 364.
  5. ^ https://www.amazon.com/Heard-You-Paint-Houses-Irishman/dp/1586422383
  6. ^ https://www.ocregister.com/2012/08/17/henry-miller-bidens-unhinged-and-worse-history/
  7. ^ https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Youngest_Senator.htm
  8. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/1972election.pdf