Aide named to replace Biden in Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top aide to U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden was named on Monday to replace him in the Senate after Biden’s son said he wasn’t interested in the job -- at least for now.

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner appointed Ted Kaufman to the seat that Biden, 66, has held since 1973, more than half of his adult life, keeping it in Democratic hands.

There long has been speculation that Beau Biden, Delaware’s attorney general, would eventually replace his father in the Senate.

But with the elder Biden being elected vice president this month and Beau Biden recently being ordered to Iraq for a year, the younger Biden took himself out of the running as an interim replacement -- and said he looked forward to fulfilling his commitment as a member of the Delaware National Guard.

Biden won the vice presidency as well as a seventh six-year Senate term on November 4. Kaufman’s appointment to the Senate is for two years. An election for the remaining four years of Biden’s term will be held in November 2010 when his son could make a run.

“This sort of leaves the door open for that option. Until he (Beau Biden) gets back (from the Iraq war) we won’t know for sure,” said Nathan Gonzales, who tracks congressional races for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Kaufman has co-chaired Biden’s vice presidential transition team and served as a senior adviser to him during the campaign.

Kaufman joined Biden’s Senate staff in 1973 and remained with the Delaware Democrat for 21 years, 19 of them as chief of staff. He later headed a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington.

Vice president-elect Biden said in a statement, “I can say with absolute confidence that with Ted Kaufman in the Senate, Delaware will be in very good hands.”

A Senate replacement has yet to be named for Barack Obama of Illinois, who will be sworn in on January 20 as the 44th U.S. president. His successor will be named by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat.

Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by David Wiessler