Election 2020: 36th Representative District

Name: Bryan Shupe

Bryan Shupe

Party: Republican

Age: 36

Family: Married six years to Sherry Shupe and have two children: Evelyn, 4, and Theodore, 1

Residence: Milford

Occupation: Small-business owner

Name: Greg Fuller

Party: Democrat

Age: Did not answer

Family: Did not answer

Residence: Did not answer

Occupation: Did not answer

Why are you running for this seat?

BS: As a local journalist, small-business owner and former mayor of Milford, I have the innovative mindset, industrious work ethic and experience to take on the major challenges that we face in the First State. My proven track record demonstrates that community-driven solutions, not partisan politics, will bring meaningful reform in health care, education and our local economy.

GF: Did not answer.

What do you see as the major issues for this district?

BS: We need to create more accessibility to quality health care; build an education system that focuses on student achievement and success; create an economy that strengthens local, small businesses and encourages entrepreneurs; rehabilitate our infrastructure and build safer roadways; and protect our natural environment.

GF: Did not answer.

What is the biggest problem facing the state, and how would you solve it?

BS: Our health care system in Delaware is not prepared to meet the evolving needs of residents in The First State. We need to increase access to quality health care, decrease costs across the board, and push our outdated system to focus on proactive care for local families.

With the passage of HB 257, I worked across the aisle with Representative Bentz in New Castle to create a program, funded through a public, private partnership, that will bring more primary care physicians to Delaware. Through investments from Bayhealth in our district including the Sussex Campus and their physician residency program, we have demonstrated that working alongside our non-profit hospital systems is the key forward to expanding access to quality health care in our communities.

Although state government has celebrated small decreases in health care insurance costs, the fact remains that insurance costs and overall health care expenses are daunting for the majority of families in Delaware. With only one main insurance company in Delaware, we need to open our health care market across state borders to reduce insurance and health care costs. Additional measures including online medical cost-sharing across hospital systems will allow residents to take health care choices into their own hands, giving them the opportunity to see expenses ahead of procedures and the ability to compare prices.

Investing in proactive health care systems like telehealth, remote monitoring, and virtual care services at community locations will allow us to move into a health care system that focuses on proactive engagement from families and meeting health challenges before emergency care is needed or chronic conditions start to develop.

As our communities continue to age and our children present more health challenges, we must also invest in our health care workforce. Through legislation like HB 58, which I created to increase scholarships available for nursing students, we give opportunities for local individuals to play a critical role in improving access to quality health care in our communities by meeting the needs of our local health care providers.

GF: Did not answer.

What would you like to see Delaware do differently regarding coronavirus?

BS: From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should not have allowed the ongoing extension of emergency powers of the Governor’s office. I am prepared to sponsor legislation that puts into law that after 30 days of a declaration of emergency orders, the General Assembly must vote on an extension moving forward. The governor of Delaware has made unilateral decisions about our local economy, health care systems and schools for 80 months with no input from the General Assembly, the very legislative body that the people of Delaware voted to represent their interests. Decisions that have changed our daily lives should not have been made only by the executive branch of the state of Delaware. Our residents must have more say in the laws governing their economy, health and school systems.

In this same direction, the Freedom of Information Act, the process where residents and free press request public information from government agencies, should not have been suspended. It is in times of emergencies, and especially when unilateral decisions are being made by one branch of government, that the public needs to have access to public information in a reasonable timeframe and method. I am currently in the process of drafting a bill that does not allow FOIA to be superseded under these circumstances.

GF: Did not answer.

How should our health care system change in response to coronavirus?

BS: One lesson that we learned through the COVID-19 pandemic is that an unforeseen challenge of this magnitude has the ability to shut down the normal processes of our health care system. Ongoing care, surgeries and procedures stopped as the health care systems were overrun with coronavirus preparation and care.

We need to work with our private and public health care systems to plan for future challenges of this size, creating mechanism that do not stop the normal operations of our community hospitals. As mental health and rehabilitation services were pushed to the back burner, we learned that a movement towards more telemedicine could improve success for families moving forward.

GF: Did not answer.

What do you believe schools should do to educate students while keeping people safe from COVID-19?

BS: With health at the forefront of decisions made at the local school level, students from kindergarten to middle-school age should have the opportunity to have in-person learning. This is a critical age where children’s minds and bodies are developing at a rapid rate and in-person interaction is critical to their ability to be successful later in school and beyond.

GF: Did not answer.

What should the state do to help both businesses and workers right now?

BS: The state should move into Phase 3 of the economic reopening plan immediately. We must understand that as a society we will be living among the coronavirus for months, potentially years, to come. As businesses continue to take precautions for the health and safety of the public and their staff, the public must take responsibility of visiting businesses based on their own health and comfortability. Families that include individuals that are highly susceptible to coronavirus must take extra precautions to make sure that their family members are safe.

During this time of massive unemployment, the state should invest in workforce development programs for industries that are expected to need an educated and trained workforce in the near future, including health care and the trades. These training programs, which have been implemented by local institutions of learning like Delaware Technical Community College, have served our state well by providing financial independence for local families and a stronger overall economy.

A sponsor of SB 65, I pushed to increase the availability of vocational training through the creation of the Focus on Alternative Skills Training (FAST) program. Similar to SEED, which provides tuition-free college opportunities, FAST would provide tuition assistance of up to $9,000 to recent Delaware high school graduates who enroll in approved non-degree certificate programs.

GF: Did not answer.

What do you think of the current level of state spending?

BS: The discussion we need to have in Legislative Hall is not whether the current level of spending is appropriate or not but whether we are seeing acceptable results from the taxpayer money we are budgeting currently. As mayor of Milford, I took the responsibility of managing our $48 million annual budget very seriously and, together with the City Council, we balanced four budgets without raising taxes.

This was done looking to the future as we built our reserves for future infrastructure investments and minimizes outdated practices that no longer served the needs of our community.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, Delaware is No. 2 in the nation in total state spending per person, and No. 1 in the lower 48 states. My question is this: do Delawareans feel as though they are getting top-of-the-line value for all of that spending? I would think that most people would say no, and many have said that to me as I’ve knocked on doors in the 36th district.

Unfortunately, we have a culture in state government that says if there’s a problem, the only thing that will solve it is more money and more government. But there is no real evidence that more money and more government will help in most cases, and often, it is the exact opposite. I believe that when a problem arises, we should fix the problem, but we should do so at the least expense, and by adding the least amount of government possible.

I commend the governor of Delaware for advocating saving measures in the annual budget and pushing state legislators to be cautious on spending during years when projected revenue streams increase. As a state representative, I have worked diligently with other law makers to reestablish the budget smoothing process that places financially prudent measures into Delaware law to control the growth of government. Delaware’s government should only grow consistent with its private market and large, ongoing programs, offices and positions should not be created strictly because state revenues are climbing.

Unsustainable government growth during the good years leads to reactionary tax increases and program cuts during the lean years. This is not only a philosophical theory but has proven true throughout Delaware’s history, most recently in 2017 with the reactionary increase in real-estate transfer tax and a 20% reduction in nonprofit organizations like volunteer fire companies and youth programs. This was done to balance a budget that had been handled on an annual basis for years and not responsibly managed with long-term safeguards for success.

The famous management guru Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured, gets managed.”

Unfortunately, the state’s government programs are not meaningfully measured, and the Joint Finance Committee does not get the metrics they need to justify the spending requests that are made to them for the state budget. It is shameful that we would make budgetary decisions without the relevant reporting on the effectiveness of programs. As a state representative, I vow to continue pushing aggressively to force each state program unit to produce meaningful reporting on the metrics of programs.

GF: Did not answer.

Would you support gun control measures?

BS: I will not support any gun control measures that violate the right to bear arms, protected under both the Delaware and United States constitutions.

GF: Did not answer.

What changes are needed to policing and the criminal justice system?

BS: As the mayor of Milford, we were successful in continuing the strong trust between our community and local law enforcement. The relationships our officers built within our neighborhoods and schools came from their proactive approach to sitting down with members of our community and listening to their concerns. As demonstrations against police brutality increased across our state, the concerns of our residents were no different.

As a Walk for Change in our community saw hundreds of people taking to the streets and holding signs, our law enforcement and public officials, including myself, walked alongside them to show solidarity and a commitment to always lead with an open mind and focus on moving forward together.

At the state level, I welcome an evaluation of the judicial system and police practices. With any reformation of a government system, I believe a third-party, nonpartisan organization is the place to start the discussion, by examining systemic racism in our judicial system. If we inject party politics into the discussion, we will divide ourselves instead of working together to improve the system for Delawareans. This examination will allow legislators and the people they represent to create impactful reforms that will seek lasting change.

GF: Did not answer.

What do you make of the state of race relations in the U.S. and particularly Delaware?

BS: The state of race relations in the United States has been under a lot of stress. There are clearly issues that need to be addressed and a path forward can be accomplished through in-depth, thoughtful conversations within our communities across a broad cross-section of society.

As a leader of my community, I believe it is my responsibility to proactively sit down with, listen and learn from those that share different experiences than myself and help generate community-driven solutions to better the quality of life for all the residents I represent.

GF: Did not answer.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?

BS: In addition to my proven track record of increasing access to quality health care, increasing vocational training and workforce development opportunities, and rehabilitating our infrastructure and creating safer roads, I believe that our residents should look at concrete measures that individuals running for office took to help their local community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent letter to the editor by a resident of the 36th District best describes our efforts in assistant local families over these unprecedented times. The letter states in part:

“During this pandemic he has consistently been there for our residents by helping the Milford School District and Food Bank of Delaware feed local children and their families. He delivered food directly to people’s door and helped feed homeless veterans at the Home of the Brave when they asked for help.

“When small businesses and nonprofit organizations were ordered to close, Shupe met with owners and their staff to help prepare for the challenges ahead and helped them to plan early for reopening. He delivered Personal Protection Equipment kits with masks and hand sanitizers to local businesses to ensure public health for workers and the public. As the president of Downtown Milford Inc., I joined his effort to connect businesses with public and private resources as we held monthly Zoom calls with small-business owners to discuss challenges and plans for reopening.

“When our families were out of work and residents could not reach the Department of Labor, Shupe helped dozens of moms and dads get the resources they needed overnight to help put food on the table and keep the lights on. He personally met with residents to help rewrite their resumes and connect them with available job opportunities.

“I have known Bryan Shupe and his family for eight years and this is nothing new for them. He has a proven track record as the former mayor of Milford of increasing accessibility to quality health care through working with the Bayhealth Sussex Campus, increasing vocation workforce training to create local jobs and protecting our local residents as he created consumer and fraud protection programs in our city.

“In this election, let’s remember those that helped our community when we needed it the most. Let’s vote to re-elect Bryan Shupe for State House, a proven leader that truly works for our community.”

GF: Did not answer.