GOP Senate candidates bash Carper, praise Trump

Rob Arlett

Gene Truono

DOVER — The two Republican candidates for a U.S. Senate nomination competed with each other Tuesday over who is the biggest supporter of President Trump and the strongest critic of Sen. Tom Carper with each seeking to convince GOP voters to pick him in the primary election Sept. 6.

Running for the seat held for the past 18 years by Sen. Carper, a Democrat, are realtor and Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett and former financial services executive Gene Truono.

Sen. Carper is seeking reelection, but he will first have to hold off a primary challenge from progressive activist Kerri Harris.

On Tuesday Mr. Arlett and Mr. Truono faced off in a debate sponsored by the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, a conservative group focused on “returning our Country to its founding principles.” Held at the Elks Lodge, the event was also livestreamed, with an organizer claiming 1.3 million people — more than the population of Delaware — were listening.

The two candidates avoided challenging one another, instead focusing on their common opponent.

“We’ve got somebody in office today who is just removed from reality,” Mr. Arlett said. “It’s just time to turn the page on Sen. Carper.”

Mr. Truono agreed, saying conservative Delawareans have no voice because the state’s congressional delegation is made up of “progressive liberals.”

Delaware last elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1994, and its congressional delegation has been entirely Democratic for the past eight years.

The two went after Sen. Carper for his opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, to repealing the Affordable Care Act and to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The national debt has grown from $1 trillion when Sen. Carper was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982 to more than $20 trillion now, Mr. Truono noted. Both candidates advocated for reducing spending and the federal government. Mr. Arlett called for an audit of all government bodies, and Mr. Truono endorsed a proposal from the White House to merge the Department of Education and the Department of Labor.

The two urged the audience of more than 100 to continue supporting President Trump and to vote for candidates who will back his agenda.

“We have people in office who have lost your trust. They’ve lost my trust,” said Mr. Arlett, noting he was the Trump campaign’s Delaware chairman in 2016.

Calling President Trump’s foreign policy “incredible,” Mr. Truono said he has not disagreed with a single major policy decision made by the president.

“He wants to go into government to help heal this country, and I think that’s what he’s doing with his policies,” he said.

Unemployment is down to a record low and the president has been working to put American first, the two candidates agreed. Both praised the president for his June meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, and Mr. Truono applauded him for withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

The candidates shared similar sentiments on immigration, saying the system is broken and needs to be changed to crack down on illegal entry into the country and reward those who seek to come legally.

“If we do not seal the border, we will not solve the problem,” Mr. Truono said. “We also will not solve the opioid crisis and human trafficking and child prostitution.”

The two agreed that recent decisions by corporate giants — such as Facebook, Apple and YouTube banning conspiracy-theorist peddler Alex Jones, for instance — target conservatives and represent an attack on free speech.

Mr. Truono also claimed the media attacks groups like the National Rifle Association with “hatred” because journalists disagree with their policies, something he said is much more common among the left than the right. The former PayPal executive downplayed Russian interference in the 2016 election, calling claims of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign a “farce,” despite increasing evidence to the contrary.

At the end of the two-hour event, each candidate made a final appeal to voters, with Mr. Truono urging them to think about who can best win an election in a state in which Democrats make up a plurality of voters and Mr. Arlett pointing to his track record as a strong conservative on Sussex County Council.

Both said they have heard from many Democrats who plan to vote Republican, with Mr. Truono saying the Democratic Party has shifted so far to the left it has embraced a “socialist message.”

The two men, who hail from different areas of the state, pledged to support the other should he win the primary. They urged voters to commit to turning Delaware red.

“The left has one issue, one opponent, and that is beating us,” moderator Shawn Greener told listeners.

A July poll of 884 likely voters in Delaware conducted by Gravis Marketing reported 19 percent of respondents backed Mr. Arlett, 15 percent supported Mr. Truono and 60 percent were undecided in the GOP primary. Seven percent said they were thinking of voting for Roque De La Fuente, a businessman from California also running in several other states.

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