Generation X Making Its Mark on Delaware Political Scene

With War on Terror and Great Recession, Xers are raised with less optimism.



Bill Roth was the last to go. The Republican senator was the final member of the Greatest Generation to hold statewide office in Delaware.

As a youthful Army captain, Roth was part of General Douglas MacArthur’s staff in the Pacific during World War II. The Depression could not take out Roth. The world war could not take out Roth. The upheaval over civil rights, the protests over the fighting in Vietnam and the political carnage from Watergate could not take out Roth.

What finally took him out was a baby boomer.

Tom Carper did it. He beat Roth in 2000, a Democratic sitting governor ousting Roth after five terms and taking over the Senate seat.

The Baby Boom had its way again.

“The Baby Boom was just so big—that generation has been entirely shaped by its size,” says Eric Tranby, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. “It has been a shock through the system. It has redefined every major institution it has gone through. It has been able to determine what politics looks like.” 

The baby boomers arrived in statewide office in the 1970s, and four decades later, they are still proving their staying power. The governor, both senators and the state’s lone congressman are all boomers.

The boomers have been so dominant for so long, people should be excused if they have not noticed Generation X edging its way into statewide office, but here it comes, getting there the way it has always had to—as an afterthought to the boomers.

“Generation Xers have kind of always lived in their shadows,” Tranby says.

Matt Denn, the Democratic lieutenant governor, was the first Gen Xer to win statewide when he was elected as the insurance commissioner in 2004. Not even he noticed.

Being born into a generation is not exactly like being born under a sign of the Zodiac. A generation actually matters.

“The generations really do make a difference. People of all ages experience the same events—September 11, World War II, the election of the first African-American president—but how you react to these events depends on your age,” says Tranby.

The statewide offices have slowly been cycling through the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, the Baby Boom and Generation X. There is no sign yet of the Millennials, the next generation to follow.

The Greatest Generation—which used to be called the GI Generation until Tom Brokaw recast it—was born from 1901 to 1924 and came into its own waging World War II. What a generation it was, defining the American spirit with its patriotism and can-do optimism, and here in Delaware, it propelled itself right into the history books.

Its best-known members include John Williams and Bill Roth in the Senate, Bert Carvel and Caleb Boggs in the governor’s office, and Collins Seitz and Louis Redding as judge and lawyer, respectively, in landmark court cases for civil rights.

The Silent Generation might be better called the Sandwich Generation, coming as it does between the star-spangled Greatest Generation and the momentous Baby Boom. Its members were born from 1925 to 1945 and looked to the Greatest Generation for their inspiration.

There is still one very prominent Delawarean from the Silent Generation in office. It is probably the only way the word “silent” can be legitimately connected to Joe Biden.

Some others from the not-so-Silent Generation? Mike Castle, Pete du Pont and Ruth Ann Minner, governors all.

The Baby Boom, which lasted from 1946 to 1964, is still all over state politics.

Carper and Chris Coons, the two Democratic senators, are boomers but from opposite ends of the generation, each of them a year inside of it. Carper was born in 1947 and Coons in 1963. Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, and John Carney, the Democratic congressman, are boomers, too.

Now Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, is easing its way in, although it is about due to become more insistent about its place in politics.

“It’s time for our generation to step up,” says Ken Simpler Jr., a Gen Xer who is a Republican candidate for treasurer this year.

Denn had the distinction of being the sole Gen Xer in statewide office for a bare two years. By the 2006 election, he had company when Beau Biden came along and got himself elected the Democratic attorney general.

Coincidentally, Denn and Biden made it there the same way. They scared out a boomer.

The prospect of a challenge from Denn, known as a relentless candidate, was enough to persuade Donna Lee Williams, a boomer who was a three-term Republican insurance commissioner, to retire from office instead. 

Biden, who shares the most famous name in state politics with his father the-vice-president, had a similar effect on Jane Brady, another boomer. Brady took her three terms as the Republican attorney general and bolted for a nice, safe judgeship.

It is too early to say what influence the Gen Xers will have on Delaware politics. For now, there are too few of them, they have yet to reach the pinnacles of office, and they have not been in for very long. Still, it is not too early to say that whatever influence they have, it will be different from what has come before.

Generation X in its formative years has witnessed the war on terror and the Great Recession and the limits of American power.

As Professor Tranby says, “They’ve been raised in a much less optimistic world. It’s a big change in what we think the American Dream is.”   

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February 2016

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Penn Museum
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The Everett Theatre
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
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Penn Museum
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Where:
Metropolitan Community Church
19369 Plantation Rd.
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
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Smyrna Opera House
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Cost: $50

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2401 Swanson St.
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Sponsor: AOI Events & PR
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Cost: $50

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I.A.T.S.E Ballroom
2401 Swanson St.
Philadelphia, PA  19148
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Sponsor: AOI Events & PR
Telephone: 267-562-2179
Contact Name: Danielle P. Jeter
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Cost: Free

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The Station Gallery
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View map »


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More information

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Cost: Free with admission

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Cost: $13

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Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

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801 Middleford Road
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Cost: Call for information.

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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
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Telephone: 302-629-6611x2446
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Cost: Depends on what you purchase

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30336 Cordrey Rd
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Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church
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Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church
500 McKennans Church Rd
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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More information

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Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $13

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More information

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Cost: Free

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
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Website »

More information

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Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

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Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

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Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
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View map »


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Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
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More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery
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298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

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Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Website »

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Two-hour guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests will visit Eleutherian Mills Residence, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

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For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
Website »

More information

Freud’s Last Session centers on a hypothetical meeting between legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and young, rising Oxford Don, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London on the day England...

Cost: $18 online, $20 at the door

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N Broom Street
Wilmington , DE  19806
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Sponsor: Bootless Stageworks
Telephone: 302-887-9300
Contact Name: Rosanne DellAversano
Website »

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Pup-Purr-i...A little bit of everythng for pet lovers The PAWS for People 7th Annual Winter Conference is designed for pet enthusiasts, owners and all those who love animals.  Cost of admission...

Cost: $45 through 2.6; $50 after 2.6

Where:
Nemours A. I. du Pont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE  19803
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Sponsor: PAWS for People
Telephone: 302-351-5622
Contact Name: Clarice Ritchie
Website »

More information

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Create and innovate at Hagley! Enjoy a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness in celebration of the Maker movement. It will feature demonstrations from area...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
2
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Hailed by The New York Times as "a young piano visionary" and "one of the leading figures in the current renaissance of performer-composers," pianist Michael Brown, a 2015 Avery...

Cost: $30. Free for ages 10-18 & accompanying adult. $10 for students 18 & older.

Where:
Bethel United Methodist Church Hall
Fourth & Market Streets
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Coastal Concerts, Inc.
Telephone: 888-212-6458
Contact Name: Edna Ellett
Website »

More information

The St. Elizabeth High School Alumni Association is hosting an art exhibition and auction on Saturday, February 20, 2016. The event will be held in the newly refurbished Grant Hall...

Where:
Grant Hall at St. Elizabeth Church
809 S Broom St.
Wilmington, DE
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Featuring Diane Monroe, jazz violinist in "What Is This Thing Called Freedom? The Transforming and Timeless Songs of Protest." Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at 7:30 p.m....

Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Episcopal Church
1108 N. Adams Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Jackson ImmunoResearch
Telephone: 302-652-8605
Website »

More information

A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
Website »

More information

Freud’s Last Session centers on a hypothetical meeting between legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and young, rising Oxford Don, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London on the day England...

Cost: $18 online, $20 at the door

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N Broom Street
Wilmington , DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Bootless Stageworks
Telephone: 302-887-9300
Contact Name: Rosanne DellAversano
Website »

More information

Direct from TAO’s successful, sold-out, world-premiere run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this brand-new production, "TAO: Seventeen Samurai," stops at The Playhouse on its...

Cost: $33–$39

Where:
The Playhouse
1007 N. Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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