Former Springfield mayor Robert Markel has called President-elect Joe Biden a friend since they were freshmen at Archmere Academy, a Catholic high school in Claymont, Del., in the late 1950s. Once Markel began driving, he gave Biden a lift to school each morning.
On Monday, Markel will serve as one of 11 electors from Massachusetts expected to cast their votes for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the Electoral College, reflecting the choice of Massachusetts voters in the Nov. 3 election. Biden defeated Trump with more than 65 percent of the vote in the state.
In a telephone interview Sunday, Markel said it will be a “very special moment and certainly very exhilarating” when he casts his vote for his high school friend.
Electors across the country are scheduled to vote throughout the day Monday, with Biden expected to receive 306 electoral votes, well above the 270 threshold needed to win the presidency. President Trump and Vice President Pence are expected to receive 232 electoral votes. The number of electors is determined by the state’s representation in Congress. Massachusetts has nine US representatives and two US Senators for a total of 11 electoral votes.
The electors in each state are selected by their respective political parties. And voters then determine which group represents them.
Markel was named one of the state’s electors earlier this month, along with Kathleen Donaghue, Joseph F. Kelly, Nicole M. LaChapelle, Thomas J. Larkin, Linda Monteiro, Jay Manuel Rivera, Norma Shulman, Ronald R. Valerio, Teresa Walsh, and Wayne D. Yeh. Valerio, 68, died “unexpectedly” on Tuesday at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, according to an obituary, so an alternate is expected to take his place.
The group is scheduled to convene in the State House at 3 p.m. on Monday, where they are expected to cast their votes for Biden.
Thinking back to those morning commutes with Biden, Markel said he is excited to cast his vote in the Electoral College for the man he’s known for more than six decades. As a voter, Markel said he’s supported Biden in all of Biden’s multiple bids for the presidency since 1988.
“I see the face I know so well, I hear the speech patterns and mannerisms and none of that has changed, other than his stutter is gone,” Markel said. “It gives you a certain strange feeling to see someone you know so well rising to this position.”
Markel said the Biden campaign asked him to be an elector and sent a letter to the Massachusetts Democratic Party endorsing him. Even with the candidate’s endorsement, Markel still had to do some campaigning of his own and reached out to members of the party for support. In the end, he was chosen as the 11th elector.
“I lucked out,” he said. “I was the only one endorsed by the candidate, and I [got in] by the skin of my teeth.”
Markel and Biden have stayed in touch over the decades since they were high school friends. Markel said Biden helped him raise money for his campaign for mayor of Springfield, an office he held from 1993 to 1996. Markel also attended the 2008 and 2012 inaugurations of President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden.
Biden had political aspirations from the time they were teenagers, Markel said. One of Biden’s earliest successful campaigns was for class president at Archmere Academy. A couple of years after finishing law school at Syracuse, Biden was elected as a New Castle county councilor in Delaware. Two years later, in 1972, he was elected to the US Senate at the age of 29.
Now, at 78, Biden will step into the nation’s highest office. Markel has high hopes for his longtime friend.
“We’ll have a president who will restore respect and dignity and civility to the office, apart from everything else he will do,” Markel said. “He won’t stay up late into the night tweeting about his enemies.”