DOVER, Del. (AP) -- The man picked to fill Joe Biden's U.S. Senate seat doesn't want his new colleagues to write him off as an irrelevant placeholder, even though he only plans to be in office for two years.
"I would not have taken this thing at this point in my life if I didn't think there were things down there that I could accomplish," said 69-year-old Ted Kaufman, a Democrat who worked for years behind the scenes on Biden's staff.
Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner tapped Kaufman to fill the seat that Vice President-elect Biden relinquished Thursday. He'll be sworn into office at 11 a.m. Friday, but has made it clear that he does not plan to serve in the Senate beyond 2010, when many political observers expect Biden's eldest son, Delaware attorney general Beau Biden, to run for his dad's old seat.
Kaufman is no stranger to the Senate, having served on Biden's staff from 1973 to 1994, including 19 years as chief of staff. But after years of working in relative anonymity, he is now stepping into the public arena.
Kaufman says if his colleagues do try to dismiss his views, he has an ace up his sleeve -- a close personal relationship with the new vice president.
"That's a lot better than a poke in the eye with a stick," joked Kaufman, who has requested assignments to the judiciary and foreign relations committee, both of which were chaired by his former boss.
As Biden's aide, Kaufman spent significant time on foreign relations and budget issues. He also was a senior adviser in his presidential and Senate campaigns.
His goals as a freshman senator include continuing Biden's effort to restore federal funding to help cities hire more police, providing financial aid for college students, getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, and working on economic recovery efforts.
"It's hard to discriminate between their views," said Christopher Schroeder, a professor of law and public policy at Duke University who has worked with Kaufman both as an academic colleague and as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary committee. "I think his stance on issues is going to be very similar to Senator Biden's."
Kaufman has known Biden since the early 1970s. When Biden ran for U.S. Senate in 1972, Biden's sister and campaign manager, Valerie, asked help from Kaufman, who has a mechanical engineering degree from Duke and a master's in business administration from the Wharton School.
After his upset victory over Republican incumbent Caleb Boggs, Biden asked Kaufman to help with the transition to the Senate. Kaufman took a one-year leave of absence from DuPont, then wound up staying with Biden for two decades.
"He comes to the job far better prepared than almost anybody I can imagine. ... Unlike the rest of us, he won't need a lot of on-the-job training," said Sen. Tom Carper, who is now Delaware's senior senator.
Kaufman said he and Biden have complemented each other well through the years. Kaufman calls himself a pragmatist, but said Biden taught him to appreciate intuition or what he calls the "human factor."
Biden, through his aides, declined repeated requests for an interview but said in a written response that Kaufman understands that service to Delaware comes first, and that getting things done requires crossing partisan and ideological lines.
"There is no one who knows more about the Senate, how it works and how to get things done than Ted Kaufman," Biden said. "I can say with absolute confidence that Delaware is in very good hands."
"Ted is a unique combination of integrity, compassion and grit," Biden added.
But unlike Biden -- who traveled back home to Wilmington almost every night -- Kaufman plans to have a residence in Washington.
But that doesn't mean he will be a regular on the D.C. cocktail circuit, said Mark Gitenstein, former counsel to the Senate judiciary committee and a fellow Obama transition advisory board member.
"If he had a choice between reading a briefing book and really getting up to speed for the hearing the next day, or going to a cocktail party, he's going to read the briefing book," he said.