Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Sen. Christopher Coons (D)

Delaware

N/A

coons.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 2010, term expires 2020, 2nd term.

Born: September 9, 1963, Greenwich, CT

Home: Wilmington

Education: Amherst Col., B.A. 1985; Yale U., J.D. 1992; Yale Divinity Schl., M.A. 1992.

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1996-2004.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: Married (Annie) , 3 children

Delaware’s junior senator is Christopher Coons, who won Vice President Joe Biden’s former Senate seat in 2010 by defeating the tea party-backed Christine O’Donnell, then easily won a full term on his own in 2014. He is a Republican-friendly, business-friendly Democrat in the mold of Virginia’s Mark Warner, Colorado’s Michael Bennet, and his home-state colleague, Tom Carper.

Coons was born in Greenwich, Conn., the middle son of Ken and Sally Coons. His mother was a schoolteacher; his father held a variety of jobs, including managing a cannery and manufacturing kitchen furniture. After the family moved to Delaware in Coons’ early childhood, bankruptcy wiped out much of his father’s business success. His parents later divorced. In high school, Coons considered himself a Republican like his parents and volunteered for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign. His conversion to the Democratic Party came while he was a student at Amherst College. Visiting Kenya for a semester in 1984, Coons said that observing his host family changed the way he thought about poverty and free markets and led him to write a tongue-in-cheek column for the college newspaper, titled “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist.”

After graduating in 1985, Coons did relief work with a church group in South Africa, and then returned to the United States to attend Yale Law School. He also enrolled in the Divinity School and graduated from both programs in 1992. He moved to New York City to work with low-income students with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation. Delaware beckoned, though, and Coons moved back in 1996 after getting married; he and his wife had met while serving on a state community service commission the year before. Coons joined his stepfather’s Newark-based fabrics company, W.L. Gore and Associates, as a lawyer. His first foray into politics came in 2000, when he ran for the New Castle County Council. After four years, he was elected county executive on an anti-corruption platform. Despite promising in his campaign not to increase taxes, Coons wound up raising taxes to close a budget gap.

When Biden was chosen to join Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential ticket, the heavy favorite on the Democratic side for the open seat was state Attorney General Beau Biden, the incumbent’s son. But the younger Biden declined to run, perhaps influenced by the appraisal by leading Democrats that the race was probably unwinnable against Republican Rep. Michael Castle, who had been elected statewide 12 times in 30 years and was the prohibitive favorite in the general election. But in one of 2010’s big upsets, Castle lost the GOP primary to O’Donnell, a local television commentator and perennial Senate candidate who hadn’t been taken seriously until her stunning primary win. By that time, Coons was already in the race, having decided to run after Biden’s announcement in February, and now with Castle out of the way, he had a real shot at winning.

Coons got the attention of the national media and an immediate double-digit lead over O’Donnell. Predictions that she would be a weak opponent were fulfilled in spades. O’Donnell was put on the defensive by old footage showing her condemning masturbation and claiming to have dabbled in witchcraft. She was compelled to tape a now-famous campaign ad in which she reassured her supporters, “I am not a witch. I’m nothing you’ve heard. I am you.” A conservative, she also criticized judicial activism but could not answer a question about which Supreme Court cases she disagreed with.

O’Donnell focused on Coons’ record raising of taxes as county executive, dubbing him “The Tax Man.” Republicans also tried to use his “Bearded Marxist” essay as a line of attack, but he insisted the title was hyperbolic for humor’s sake. “I am a clean-shaven capitalist,” he retorted. Mostly, Coons kept a low profile while O’Donnell’s campaign came apart with one controversy after another. She did make some headway with voters and ardent tea party activists who praised her for a common touch. And, she was no slouch at fundraising. O’Donnell raised over $7 million for her campaign, almost double that of Coons’ $3.8 million.

But on Election Day, it wasn’t close. Coons won, 57% to 40%. Exit polls showed that he attracted significant crossover votes from Republicans and was heavily favored by women, who split 63%-35% in Coons’ favor. O’Donnell fared somewhat better with men, who voted 53%-44% for Coons. However, the two ran about evenly among independents. Unaffiliated voters split 49% for Coons and 46% for O’Donnell.

Even before winning the race, Coons found himself the object of adoration among Democrats; Majority Leader Harry Reid told The Hill newspaper in September 2010, “He’s my favorite candidate. He’s my pet.” Coons was named in December 2012 to lead a Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee effort to engage business executives.

But Coons also has made a determined effort to work with Republicans. He teamed with a fellow freshman, Republican Marco Rubio, to introduce a jobs bill in November 2011 after compiling ideas from colleagues. From his seat on the Judiciary Committee, he got a measure into law in May 2012 to extend the authorizations of 29 temporary bankruptcy judgeships in 14 states and Puerto Rico. He also joined with Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Texas Republican John Cornyn on a bill to make the illegal streaming of television shows or movies a felony. As a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Coons sought to make the tax code more favorable to renewable energy firms and joined Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma in a 2012 effort to scrutinize the renewable fuels standard, mandated by Congress in the 2005 energy bill to gradually increase production of biofuels.

In recognition of his time in Africa, Coons was given the chairmanship of Foreign Relations’ subcommittee on the continent. He struck up a friendship with the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, and they led the Senate’s effort in 2012 to formally condemn Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army for its notorious reign of killings and child abductions across central Africa. Coons also sought to warn of the need to catch up to China’s growing influence in Liberia and other African nations, telling The Associated Press in January 2012, “We’re missing an important strategic opportunity for the United States.” Later that year, he joined Arizona Republican John McCain and several other Middle East hawks in supporting U.S. action to prevent Syrian Bashar Hafez al-Assad from killing more rebels in that nation’s protracted civil war.

Coons took nothing for granted in 2014: He held a fundraiser three weeks after the 2012 election with former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. But he was never seriously targeted and prevailed easily.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-5042

(202) 228-3075

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 127A
Washington, DC 20510-0805

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-5042

(202) 228-3075

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 127A
Washington, DC 20510-0805

DISTRICT OFFICE

(302) 573-6345

(302) 573-6351

1105 North Market Street Suite 100
Wilmington, DE 19801-1233

DISTRICT OFFICE

(302) 573-6345

(302) 573-6351

1105 North Market Street Suite 100
Wilmington, DE 19801-1233

DISTRICT OFFICE

(302) 736-5601

(302) 736-5609

500 West Loockerman Street Suite 450
Dover, DE 19904

DISTRICT OFFICE

(302) 736-5601

(302) 736-5609

500 West Loockerman Street Suite 450
Dover, DE 19904

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Jacqueline Thomas
Legislative Assistant

Acquisitions

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Aerospace

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Agriculture

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Kate Rohrer
Kent and Sussex Coordinator

Appropriations

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Arts

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Banking

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Budget

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Commerce

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Economics

Latisha Bracy
Projects Director

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Education

Jacqueline Thomas
Legislative Assistant

Latisha Bracy
Projects Director

Abby Walter
Education Fellow

Energy

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Environment

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Finance

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Foreign

Thomas Mancinelli
Legislative Assistant

Valli Sanmugalingam
Legislative Correspondent

Christy Gleason
Senior Strategist

Govt Ops

Jacqueline Thomas
Legislative Assistant

Claire O'Neill
Special Assistant

Health

Jacqueline Thomas
Legislative Assistant

Abby Walter
Education Fellow

Homeland Security

Housing

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Human Rights

Immigration

Intelligence

Thomas Mancinelli
Legislative Assistant

Intergovernmental

Kate Rohrer
Kent and Sussex Coordinator

Internet

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Labor

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Jacqueline Thomas
Legislative Assistant

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Military

Thomas Mancinelli
Legislative Assistant

Ryan Doherty
Defense Fellow

Valli Sanmugalingam
Legislative Correspondent

Kate Rohrer
Kent and Sussex Coordinator

Minorities

Megan O'Neill
Executive Assistant; Scheduler

Native Americans

Jacqueline Thomas
Legislative Assistant

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Recreation

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Religion

Latisha Bracy
Projects Director

Science

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Leah Rubin Shen
Energy Fellow

Seniors

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Social Security

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Technology

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Leah Rubin Shen
Energy Fellow

Telecommunications

Trade

Jonathan Stahler
Legislative Director

Valli Sanmugalingam
Legislative Correspondent

Eric Wall
Legislative Correspondent

Transportation

Lisa Hummon-Jones
Legislative Assistant

Andrew Dinsmore
Projects Manager

Veterans

Ryan Doherty
Defense Fellow

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Valli Sanmugalingam
Legislative Correspondent

Brendan Mackie
Constituent Advocate

Welfare

Kelsey Mellette
Legislative Correspondent

Women

Jacqueline Thomas
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Christopher Coons
Votes: 174,012
Percent: 56.61%
Christine O'Donnell
Votes: 123,053
Percent: 40.03%
2010 PRIMARY
Christopher Coons
Unopposed

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