GEORGETOWN, Delaware — Delaware Democrats and Republicans gathered in Georgetown on Thursday to mark the end of this year's election season and speculate on what's in store for the 2016 campaign.
Under gray skies and the threat of rain, election winners and losers came together for the postelection ritual known as Return Day, ceremoniously settling their partisan differences, if only for the moment.
Return Day, when the town crier announces the results of local election returns, also features candidates parading together in carriages and cars around the downtown circle in Georgetown, before local party leaders join to "bury the hatchet" in a box of sand.
For some, Return Day also marks the start of speculation about who will run for which offices in the next election, which in this case includes a 2016 gubernatorial contest.
One possible candidate, Attorney General Beau Biden appeared in the downtown parade, riding a National Guard vehicle alongside Delaware Adjutant Gen. Frank Vavala. Biden served in Iraq with his Delaware National Guard unit as a military attorney.
Biden has made limited public appearances since undergoing surgery last year at a Texas cancer center, where doctors removed a lesion from his head. He announced in an email to supporters in April that he would not seek re-election as attorney general but planned to run for governor in 2016.
Biden's decision prompted Lt. Gov. Matt Denn to run for attorney general, and Denn easily won election Tuesday. Denn has frequently been mentioned as a 2016 gubernatorial candidate, but on Thursday he downplayed talk of a possible Democratic primary contest against Biden in two years.
"I'm planning to serve four years in this job, ... and I'm looking forward to doing the job," said, Denn, who takes over as attorney general in January.
Meanwhile, gubernatorial talk has swirled around new treasurer-elect Ken Simpler, a political newcomer who became the darling of the Republican Party after scoring an impressive victory on Tuesday in a state where Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans. Simpler handily defeated a candidate who had the strong backing of Delaware Democratic Party leaders, including Gov. Jack Markell and Sen. Tom Carper, both of whom used the treasurer's office as a political stepping stone.
Simpler said Thursday that he was flattered by the talk, but that he won't be running for governor in two years.
"Speculation about me doing anything more than being a state treasurer is pure conjecture, and I will be happy to put it to rest," Simpler said, adding that he made it clear during the campaign that he planned to be a full-time treasurer and would serve a full term.
"Nothing has happened in the 48 hours since the general election that has changed my mind about that," he said. "I am categorically ruling out something in 2016, categorically."
State economic development director Alan Levin, who mulled a run for governor in 2008, also ruled out a GOP gubernatorial bid in 2016.
"It's nice to be thought of. ... Not gonna happen," said Levin.
For the time being, state Sen. Colin Bonini is the only Republican to announce a run for governor, although Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle said Thursday that he also is considering a 2016 bid.