Born in West Virginia and raised in Virginia, Senator Tom Carper attended The Ohio State University on a Navy R.O.T.C. scholarship, graduating in 1968 with a B.A. in economics. He went on to complete five years of service as a naval flight officer, serve three tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and continued to serve in the Naval Reserve as a P-3 aircraft mission commander until retiring with the rank of captain in 1991 after 23 years of military service. With the war winding down in Southeast Asia, Tom Carper moved to Delaware in 1973 where he earned his M.B.A. at the University of Delaware. Today, he and his wife of 30 years, Martha, live in Wilmington and are the proud parents of two sons. Senator Carper travels from Wilmington to Washington each day on an Amtrak train.
His career in public service began in 1976 when he was elected to the first of three terms as Delaware's state treasurer at the age of 29 at a time when the state of Delaware had the worst credit rating of any state in America. Six years later, with that credit rating restored to a respectable "AA," he ran for – and was elected – to Delaware's at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Senator Carper went on to serve five terms as a U.S. congressman where he earned a reputation as a results-oriented centrist serving on the House Financial Services Committee, as well as the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, which is now part of the House Committee on Natural Resources. In 1991, then-Congressman Carper led a bipartisan, six-member congressional delegation of Vietnam veterans back to Southeast Asia to search for U.S. soldiers whose remains were never recovered and listed as MIAs. During that trip, the group met with the new Vietnamese General Secretary Do Muoi and helped lay the groundwork for normalizing relations between the United States and Vietnam.
Tom Carper was then elected the 78th governor of Delaware in 1992 and served two terms in that role. As governor, he pursued a common-sense agenda that led to eight balanced budgets, tax cuts in seven of those eight years, and major increases in employment. Governor Carper led the effort to strengthen the state's “rainy day” fund and boost Delaware's credit rating to "AAA" for the first time in state history, while helping to overhaul the state's education system and to implement welfare reform initiatives in Delaware and the nation.
During his second term as governor, Tom Carper was selected by his colleagues to serve as vice-chairman, then as chairman, of the National Governors' Association (NGA). After serving as chairman, he led the NGA's 'Center for Best Practices,' which focused on developing and implementing innovative solutions to policy challenges faced by governors across the nation. From 1994-1998, he served as a member of Amtrak's board of directors and, later, as founding vice-chairman of the American Legacy Foundation to combat youth smoking and as vice-chairman of Jobs for America's Graduates, a national non-profit to reduce high school dropouts.
On Jan. 3, 2001, Governor Carper stepped down two weeks early to become Delaware's junior senator. He was reelected in 2006, and with his reelection in November 2012 he has been elected to state-wide public office in Delaware 13 times. When Senator Joe Biden stepped down to become vice president in January 2009, Tom Carper became Delaware's senior senator.
In his time in the U.S. Senate, Senator Carper has worked extensively on reforming our health care system, improving our environment, and ensuring that federal programs are run efficiently and effectively. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Carper helped craft the Affordable Care Act with a focus on how to improve our health care system by reducing costs, getting better results, and empowering consumers with the tools and resources they need to achieve better health and wellness. Senator Carper fought to include provisions on workplace wellness and menu labeling in the health care reform law, and he continues to be a leader in ensuring that the Affordable Care Act is implemented effectively.
As a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Carper continues to fight to protect our environment and clean up our air. He successfully defended common sense clean air regulations from misguided attempts to repeal them, and he continues to push for meaningful protections that limit carbon pollution, regulate cross-state air pollution and help stem the tide of climate change. He led the effort to pass the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act with Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), which has cleaned up millions of old, dirty diesel engines to help save lives and improve public health. Senator Carper also helped broker the compromise that created our country’s highest fuel efficiency standards in a generation, saving Americans millions at the pump. As the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, Senator Carper continues to advocate for common sense policies to clean our air, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and improve public health.
Senator Carper also serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, having served as the committee’s chairman in the 113th Congress. In that capacity, he focuses on protecting our country from threats to our national security, as well as ensuring federal government programs are efficient and using taxpayer dollars wisely. Senator Carper continues to champion postal reform with the goal of protecting the U.S. Postal Service from collapse and ensuring it remains a robust American institution for generations to come. He has also supported legislation to improve cybersecurity across the federal government and ensure we are doing all we can to respond to the growing threats our country faces in cyberspace.
During more than 30 years of public service, Senator Carper has worked tirelessly to develop practical solutions to real problems. His ability to work across party lines has earned him a reputation for consensus-building that is unique in today's political climate. The Washington Post's late David Broder calls him "a notably effective and non-partisan leader, admired and trusted on both sides of the aisle."