Election 2020: 15th Senatorial District

Name: Dave Lawson
Party: Republican
Age: 73
Family: Married
Residence: Marydel
Occupation: Delaware state senator 15th District

Name: Jaci Hugg
Party: Democratic
Age: 53
Family: David Hugg, husband
Residence: Smyrna
Occupation: Legislative assistant to state Sen. Bruce Ennis

Why are you running for this seat?
My purpose in seeking re-election is to continue efforts to improve the overall condition of the state and to protect the rights of the citizens of Delaware.
JH: I believe I can make a difference for my community and for my state. We can do a better job at working across the aisle to get things done for the betterment of our State and not just vote NO. I also believe I can represent people who have not had their voices heard in Dover and I want to encourage people who have not been part of the process of governing Delaware to get involved to build a bright future for Delaware. Delaware has been a wonderful place for me, and my family and I want to see all of us succeed. It is time for a change, and I believe I can help that change happen.
I have worked as a public servant and as a small businesswoman and I see the wonderful lives we can have in Delaware. I know that by giving back to the state as your State Senator I help build a better Delaware that represents all people and can provide decent paying jobs, affordable health care, high quality schools, support small business, protect the environment and ensure equal justice and public safety for all Delawareans.

What do you see as the major issues for this district?
Improvements in education and public safety are the major issues facing the district and the State. In District 15, reliable and affordable internet is not available for many families and this must be addressed.
JH: We need strong and inclusive leadership to bring back Delaware and to rebuild our state to be better for all people. We need to safely get Delaware back to work, we need to safely educate our children, and we need to protect the most vulnerable in society. Working together I know we can pull ourselves out of this crisis. I understand the struggles that people have in their daily life. I have worked in many jobs, starting at the age of 15 with a job at McDonald’s. I have worked in the public and private sectors and owned my own business. I believe I understand the struggles of life that affect Delawareans every day, including living paycheck to paycheck, struggling with bills, watching loved ones suffer, and finding ways to make ends meet. I know the people of my district and Kent County want to get back safely to their lives and build a safe and prosperous future for themselves and their families.

What is the biggest problem facing the state, and how would you solve it?
I think the biggest problem currently facing the State is the shutdown. With proper safety protocols, I believe we can safely re-open our businesses and our schools. We must get back to work and school. Our children and our economy are suffering badly under the current and prolonged shutdown.
JH: The pandemic is the biggest problem facing the state of Delaware. When I started running for election the biggest problems I felt were issues related to equality and inclusiveness and attracting good paying jobs to Kent County. The pandemic has created a whole set of new problems that face the state. We need to build back and better the Delaware economy and the way to do this is to invest in our communities.
I am very concerned about unemployment rates especially for women in Delaware. I support expansion of training programs to retrain workers. I want to expand childcare options to allow working mothers and fathers get back to work. And we need new ways to take care of school age children to get them back to school.

What would you like to see Delaware do differently regarding coronavirus?
As I stated, we must get our schools open and our economy moving. With proper caution and balance this can be done. State offices are closed or are working at a reduced capacity. This inhibits permits, licenses and other required documents from being processed and issued which, in turn, has caused delays of various employment producing projects. In addition, small businesses can be open and operating with the same safety protocols in place as the big businesses have been operating under since March.
JH: I would like to see all Delawareans working together to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. We need to follow science. Simple things like wearing masks and social distancing have brought down the rate of infection. We need to keep the infection rates low, reduce the pressure on the health care system, and work to open what we can open safely. We need our politicians to stop politicizing the situation and taking advantage of the legitimate fear and concern people have concerning the pandemic. Protesting wearing masks and denying science are undermining the efforts we need to take to reopen safely.
The failure of the federal government to lead the response to the pandemic has caused this health crisis to last far longer than it would have if we had a coordinated response. My fear in Delaware is that there are politicians that have used the pandemic as a way to divide us. My plan will be to bring people together. We need to provide first responders, health care workers, school teachers, and early childcare workers with adequate personal protection equipment for the duration of the pandemic. The State needs to continue to take the lead in our response and support additional funding to allow our schools to reopen safely

How should our health care system change in response to coronavirus?
Our hospitals did an excellent job. However, the inability for patients to see family members must be addressed. I believe safety protocols can be instituted to allow for this very important component of the healing process.
JH: We need to work on creating an accessible and affordable health care system, to ensure that prescription costs and other out-of-pocket expenses do not continue to rise and try to negotiate lower prescription costs, and to ensure quality care is available throughout the state especially in areas that are further away from the major hospitals in the state. The pandemic has highlighted the disparities in access to health care and the ability to pay for health care. We need to work on expanding access and using telemedicine to provide more services to the community.
The pandemic has reduced access to mental health and addiction services. Delaware has an addiction crisis that we need to address. The provision of Narcan to more public safety officials and to other members of the public has provided us with a starting point to address this issue but we need to do more to address the problems related to addiction.

What do you believe schools should do to educate students while keeping people safe from COVID-19?
Our children need a proper education and the socialization that school provides. Online school and Zoom classes do not provide the consistency of education that is needed for our children, not to mention internet service for many Delaware families is non-existent or unreliable. I have seen reports that children have a high immunity and they do not transmit the virus easily. Opening schools with reasonable safety protocols would be the place to start.
JH: We need to reduce and keep the community spread of coronavirus to a minimum. One area the State government can help to control the spread of coronavirus is in the school system. We need to educate Delaware’s students while protecting their physical and mental health. And we must protect our school teachers, school staff and administrators, bus drivers, facilities staff and other school employees. The scenarios outlined by the Department of Education provide a framework for the safe reopening of schools. The state needs to provide the personal protective equipment necessary to protect school employees. I agree with the statement that the state of Delaware needs to prioritize the health and safety of students and staff while maintaining the goal of providing a high-quality, equitable education for all Delaware learners.
I understand that face coverings and social distancing will be difficult to administer in schools. We need to monitor the health status of our students and employees to ensure that any outbreaks can be controlled. Facilities will need to be kept clean and ventilation and facilities may need to be upgraded. We also need to prepare for the flu season and ensure students have their vaccinations. We also need to respect the role that schools provide in protecting the nutrition and health of our children. School meals are an important way of providing food security to children during this economic crisis. We are asking much from our schools and school employees and we should support them during this crisis. They love our kids and this is a time to stand with them to get Delaware back on track.

What should the state do to help both businesses and workers right now?
The State should do a proper and honest risk analysis of the threat of the coronavirus. From that study, a risk management plan can be constructed which would provide real, true and consistent guidance for this issue.
JH: We need to solve the public health issues related to the pandemic so that we can get workers back to work and to keep our businesses open and rebuilding. Small businesses are the lifeblood of Kent County and Delaware. I see a role for the State of Delaware to lead the building back Delaware economy better. Many of the small businesses that have been negatively affected by the pandemic can only come back successfully if we get control of the pandemic. The Delaware Relief Grants offered under the CARES Act is one step to get funds to keep the impacted businesses afloat. The Delaware Division of Small Business and US Small Business Administration will play an important role in providing resources for small businesses to rebuild. We need to involve businesses in the discussion about how to recover from this crisis.
Delaware’s unemployment rate has been declining and labor participation rates are increasing while the number of unemployment claims continue to remain high. In Kent County we have seen substantial declines in jobs in the hospitality and leisure, trade, health service, and overall service sector. Women and low-income workers have been hardest hit by this pandemic crisis. The immediate challenge has been to arrange for unemployment insurance and fill in the temporary need for those not covered by the traditional Unemployment Insurance program.
In my current position I have assisted many Delawareans who have faced this sudden unemployment through no fault of their own actions. We need to continue to address the impact of the pandemic to keep those employed on the job and we need to continue to aid those that are unemployed. There is an opportunity to retrain unemployed workers so that they can go back to work in better paying jobs. And we need to think of the childcare issues our workers are facing. There may be an opportunity here to get people back to work by providing high quality day care for young and school age children.

What do you think of the current level of state spending?
The current and past State spending practices are without long term forethought. By law, the State may spend all but 2% of its total revenue and that is taken to the max. There is the Budget Stabilization Fund where money may be saved. Nearly 45% of that was spent for this year’s budget.
JH: Delaware has a long history of prudent financial planning and management. The State of Delaware typically appropriates only 98% of its revenue and fully funds its Rainy Day Fund while maintaining an AAA bond rating. I fully support conservative financial management to continue the strong financial position of the state of Delaware. The FY 2021 budget was made during the height of the pandemic and was a reasonable and practical budget that protected our schools and maintained the delivery of public services while protecting our state and school employees.
School spending by the state is approximately 36% of the total General Fund expenditures in the current budget. The pandemic has made great demands on our school districts. We need to maintain and improve the quality of our schools while balancing other state priorities. We need to watch closely the revenue estimates that the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) will make during the 2020-2021 budgeting process. And we will need to make fiscally prudent choices to manage the financial health of the State of Delaware.

Would you support gun control measures?
There are many gun control measures and restrictions in effect now that, when violated, are not being prosecuted. What Delaware needs is criminal control!
JH: I support the 2nd amendment rights and I come from a family of gun owners. I believe we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and enforce the laws we currently have concerning gun crime. I am an avid target shooter and I have many friends and family who are responsible lawabiding gun owners who are concerned about gun regulations. I am also concerned about domestic violence, school shootings and mass shooting events. We need to use our common sense and current laws to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands and to prosecute those who engage in criminal activity while using firearms.

What changes are needed to policing and the criminal justice system?
Law enforcement and the community must unify for the safety of all. The criminal justice system needs prosecutors that are willing to take cases to trial. Plea deals do not protect law abiding citizens. They just make more victims.
JH: I support law enforcement and public safety. I want there to be a criminal justice system that is equal for all people. I was horrified by the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other people who died in interactions with police officers. Law enforcement officials have said that there needs to be a better process of vetting and removing officers that have a history of misconduct. I want our police in the State of Delaware to be the best people, to be connected to the community and the best trained. Law enforcement is a difficult job with a tremendous amount of responsibility.
I believe that community confidence in law enforcement personnel is important for community safety and the safety of all people. I support funding the right services to protect and serve the community. Law enforcement depends on the community to be effective in preserving the peace and serving everyone in the community. The first step would be to encourage greater cooperation and communication. I will support funding that includes more community-based policing and the involvement of all residents in policing efforts. I think we have asked too much of our police. Police officers are not equipped or trained to solve all of the community’s issues. We need to support our public safety and welfare using other dedicated professionals so police can focus on policing and law enforcement.

What do you make of the state of race relations in the US and particularly Delaware?
We continue to identify as race instead of simply human beings. Every time attention is drawn to race the division gets wider. We all need to change our way of thinking.
JH: I am deeply concerned about the state of race relations in the US and in Delaware. I think that there are politicians that use race as means to divide the public to gain more political power. I recognize that racism still exists in the US and in Delaware. I think we have made great strides forward together to end systemic racism in Delaware. We need to preserve access to voting and to ensure no one is denied their right to vote. We need to build up the confidence in the community with law enforcement and public safety. And we need to ensure that the provision of public services and access to the public sector is equitable and open to all. My campaign has been open and inclusive of everyone and I have worked to reach out to all members of the community. I have a strong belief in the good nature of people, and I believe I can be a catalyst for change in race relations in Delaware. We need to continue the conversations and education around race relations and embrace our true history. Let’s not regress.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?
I ask that we all pray for healing. Our State and our Nation needs a change of heart.
JH: We should work to better fund and prepare infrastructure projects to keep up with the increased demand on our existing infrastructure due to the rapid population and economic growth our state has seen over the last few decades. I support policies that will make the statewide bus system (DART) safer, more efficient, reliable, and accessible to everyone in our community and state. The forests, fields, beaches, inland bays, and wetlands have always been a source of happiness to me whether I am riding my bike through Delaware’s countryside or relaxing on the beach.
I want to be sure we preserve our environment for ourselves and for future generations. Environmental protection also protects the health of our communities. And the protection of our environment helps those who fish our rivers, work the land, and supports our tourism industry. I will work to preserve our environment while also ensuring environmental justice so that all of our communities are protected and healthy.