Delaware House leader, candidate clash over gun control credit

DOVER — The House majority leader is at odds with a former aide to Gov. Jack Markell who is now running for Congress, both now butting heads over who deserves credit for a 2013 gun control bill.

In a since-deleted Facebook post, Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, questioned why U.S. House of Representatives candidate Sean Barney “keeps bragging about helping with background checks in the legislature,” saying she “never knew he was a member” of Gov. Markell’s staff.

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Valerie Longhurst

Mr. Barney, a Democrat running for the open seat in Congress, has named gun control as one of the focal points of his campaign, leaning on his background, he says, as a political aide and U.S. Marine.

His website says, “As policy director to Delaware’s governor, Sean helped … create universal background checks for gun sales.”

Rep. Longhurst said in a brief interview Tuesday she reached out to Mr. Barney about two months ago to dispute his role involving a bill requiring background checks for firearm sales at gun shows.

The legislation was introduced in March 2013 and became law two months later, after passing both chambers in the General Assembly.

Rep. Longhurst, who has supported several gun-safety bills, was the main sponsor of the measure. On Tuesday, she accused Mr. Barney of exaggerating his role in getting the legislation passed to bolster his congressional run.

She declined to say what Mr. Barney, an adviser to Gov. Markell in 2012 and 2013, said when she communicated with him in March.

A campaign spokesman for the candidate defended his record and role in pushing for stricter gun control.

“Sean is proud of the work he did as policy director in the Markell administration on this and many other issues,” Nate Hake said in an

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Sean Barney

email. “As someone who has been shot, the issue of gun violence is personal for Sean.

“That is why Sean is advocating for stronger gun safety legislation at the federal level and why he is the only candidate in the race to have released a comprehensive and detailed plan for addressing gun violence.”

A spokesman for Gov. Markell said in an email the legislation “was a joint effort by the governor, legislators, then-Attorney General (Beau) Biden and then-Lieutenant Governor (Matt) Denn.”

Rep. Longhurst, who later took down her Facebook post, said she was unaware whether Mr. Barney or any of his people had seen her comments.

“Oh, I didn’t pay attention to it. I just said my piece,” she said.

She was a co-sponsor of a similar 2011 measure to expand background checks.

The proposal was unsuccessful.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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