Law prof picked for Biden seat

The U.S. Senate will still include a Duke alum when it reconvenes in January.

Ted Kaufman, Engineering '60 and a senior lecturing fellow in the School of Law, was appointed to fill the Senate seat to be left vacant by Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Delaware Gov. Ruth Minner announced Monday.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Woman's College '58 and R-N.C., is the only Duke alumnus in the current Senate, but she lost her bid for re-election to state Sen. Kay Hagan Nov. 4.

"He [will be] the sole member of the 'Duke caucus' in the United States Senate," noted Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. "We are very proud of him, and we look forward to supporting him."

Kaufman has taught law courses on Congress as well as classes in the Fuqua School of Business and the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy. Schoenfeld said it was unclear what Kaufman's commitments to Duke would be while he serves in the Senate.

"I really have a very universal kind of interest in the issues of the Senate," Kaufman told a reporter from The (Delaware) News Journal. "I have been teaching that for a long time. I'm just so pleased to have this opportunity."

Schoenfeld said he hoped Kaufman would continue sharing his wisdom and expertise with Duke students, perhaps by hiring some as interns. His appointment means more than just good publicity for Duke, said Christopher Schroeder, Charles S. Murphy professor of law and public policy.

"It means having a good friend in the Senate, somebody who has taught here for [more than] 15 years," Schroeder said, noting that he worked with Kaufman on Biden's Senate staff and has co-taught a law and public policy class with him.

Kaufman is a member of the Obama-Biden transition project and the co-chair of Biden's transition team. He served as Biden's chief of staff for 19 years, and he has held senior positions in all of Biden's national campaigns.

"Ted Kaufman meets every test I set for this appointment," Minner said in a statement Monday. "His political views are close to Sen. Biden's, and he doesn't need any on-the-job training. He'll be an effective senator for Delaware from day one."

Kaufman, 69, said he would retire from the position in two years, causing media outlets to speculate that he is keeping the seat warm for Joe Biden's son-Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden-to be the Democratic candidate in a 2010 special election. Beau Biden announced last week that he would not accept a U.S. Senate appointment after he was deployed to Iraq by the Delaware Army National Guard.

"I don't know about that speculation. Beau Biden would be a wonderful senator, but that's two years down the road," Schroeder said. "Ted's not going to be a 'seat warmer.' He is going to work hard for the state of Delaware and the people of the United States while he is in the Senate."


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