Chris Coons

Chris Coons
Chris Coons
United States Senator
from Delaware
Assumed office
November 15, 2010
Serving with Tom Carper
Preceded by Ted Kaufman
County Executive of New Castle County
In office
January 4, 2005 – November 15, 2010
Preceded by Thomas P. Gordon
Succeeded by Paul Clark
President of the New Castle County Council
In office
January 2, 2001 – January 4, 2005
Preceded by Stephanie L. Hansen
Succeeded by Paul Clark
Personal details
Born September 9, 1963 (1963-09-09) (age 48)
Greenwich, Connecticut
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Annie Lingenfelter Coons[1]
Children twins Michael & Jack, Maggie[1]
Residence Wilmington, Delaware
Alma mater Amherst College (B.A.)
Yale Divinity School (M.A.R.)
Yale Law School (J.D.)[2]
Religion Presbyterian[3]
Website Official website

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, 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 is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.


Early life and education

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.[2]

Professional career

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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[5] 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.[8] New Castle County maintained a AAA bond rating throughout his tenure.[9]

U.S. Senate

2010 election

Coons on the campaign trail

Coons ran in 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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%.[14]

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".[15] In it, he describes his transformation from a Republican to what Fox News described as a "Democrat suspicious of America's power and ideals."[16] 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.[17]

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."[16] David Weigel, writing in Slate, opined: "If the Tea Party Express slings the 'bearded Marxist' nonsense, I doubt it will work."[18]


Senator Coons holding a press conference

Coons was sworn in as a senator on November 15, 2010, by Vice President Joe Biden, the former occupant of Coons' seat in the Senate. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (from West Virginia) was sworn in on the same day. He succeeded appointed U.S. senator and former Biden aide Ted Kaufman. His current term will expire in 2015.

Committee assignments

Source: United States Senate[19]

Caucus Memberships

Senate Oceans Caucus

Electoral history

Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
2000 County Council Primary Christopher A. Coons Democratic 7,520 48% Vincent D'Anna
Martha Denison
Dwight L. Davis
Democratic 3,220
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
Richard Korn
Democratic 4,702
2004 County Executive General Christopher A. Coons Democratic 131,397 58% Christopher Castagno Republican 93,424 42%
2010 United States Senate General Christopher A. Coons Democratic 173,900 56.6% Christine O'Donnell Republican 123,025 40%

Personal life

Coons is married to the former Annie Lingenfelter. They have three children and live in Wilmington, Delaware.

In 1999, he was awarded the Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Award for his work with the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, the Governor's Mentoring Council, and the United Way of Delaware.[6]

Coons has been named an honorary commander of the 166th Air Wing of the Delaware Air National Guard, and is an honorary life member of the Minquadale Fire Company.


  1. ^ a b Darling, Cynthia (October 4, 2010). "Is Christopher Coons Married?". Politics Daily. 
  2. ^ a b "Meet Chris Coons". Chris Coons for U.S. Senate. Retrieved 2010-09-17.  (campaign web site biography)
  3. ^ Brown, Elizabeth (October 29, 2010). "What Is Christopher Coons' Religion?". Politics Daily. 
  4. ^ Yearick, Bob (June 15, 2010). "Castle vs. Coons". Delaware Today. Retrieved 2010-09-16.. 
  5. ^ a b CNN staff (September 15, 2010). "Chris Coons: Delaware's surprise favorite". CNN Politics (CNN). Retrieved 2010-09-16.. 
  6. ^ a b "Rodel Foundation Delaware : About". Retrieved 5 November 2010.. 
  7. ^ Chase, Randall. (September 23, 2010) O'Donnell foe's career marked by political shift. Associated Press.
  8. ^ Delaware Online (September 24, 2010). "Coons for Senate ad claims he balanced county budget as NCCo executive". Caesar Meter Delaware Fact Check. Wilmington News Journal. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Fitch Rates New Castle County, DE GOs 'AAA'; Outlook Stable". Business Wire. Forbes. September 9, 2010. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  10. ^ Chadderdon, Jesse. (February 3, 2010) Coons to challenge Castle for Senate seat. Community News.
  11. ^ "Election 2010: Delaware Senate". Rasmussen Reports. September 16, 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2010.. 
  12. ^ "Poll shows O'Donnell trailing in Del. Senate race," Huffington Post. Oct. 6, 2010.
  13. ^ "Delaware Senate poll: Chris Coons' wide lead over Christine O'Donnell grows," Delaware News Journal, Oct. 28, 2010.
  14. ^ "2010 Delaware Senate Race". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  15. ^ "Chris Coons: The Making Of A Bearded Marxist". MediaMatters. May 23, 1985. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b "46 Days to Decide: Dem Candidate Coons Comes Under Scrutiny in Delaware Senate Race". Fox News. September 17, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  17. ^ Isenstadt, Alex (May 4, 2010). "Coons took 'bearded Marxist' turn". Politico. 
  18. ^ Weigel, David (September 17, 2010). "Chris Coons on the Air". Slate. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  19. ^ Erickson, Nancy, ed (2011). Committee and Subcommittee Assignments for the One Hundred Twelfth Congress. United States Government Printing Office. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Stephanie L. Hansen
President of the New Castle County Council
Succeeded by
Paul Clark
Preceded by
Thomas P. Gordon
County Executive of New Castle County
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joe Biden
Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator from Delaware
(Class 2)

Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ted Kaufman
United States Senator (Class 2) from Delaware
Served alongside: Thomas R. Carper
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Joe Manchin
D-West Virginia
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Mark Kirk

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