Lieutenant governor candidates make their pitches at Democrats’ forum

NEWARK — All six Democrats running for the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor pledged Wednesday to support unions, grow the economy and work with the state’s next governor.

Even with the primary election nearly seven months away, more than 100 people, including several state lawmakers, showed up for the evening candidates’ forum featuring the six candidates.

Sponsored by the New Castle County Democratic Party, the event gave voters a first chance to compare the contenders and their views.

Hopefuls spoke on taxes, drug addiction and education, with each citing their backgrounds and past accomplishments.

The first round of campaign finance reports, released last month, separated candidates into two categories. Ciro Poppiti, Sen. Bethany Hall-Long and Kathy McGuiness each had at least $77,000 on hand at the end of 2015.

Ms. McGuiness, with $112,000 available, led the way.

On the flip side, Greg Fuller, Brad Eaby and Sherry Dorsey-Walker have no more than $14,000 on hand.

All six candidates have at least limited experience in public service, ranging from town council to state Senate.

Sen. Hall-Long, who represents the Middletown area, repeatedly pointed to her time in the General Assembly where she has focused on health-related issues.

“The next governor has unprecedented challenges and I have the experience, I have the results and the proven record to stand with the next governor to make Delaware stronger, better and healthier,” she said.

Several candidates stated their support for raising taxes on the “wealthy” and hiking the state’s gasoline tax, although a few were more hesitant to call for changes to the tax structure.

“I don’t believe in just taxing and throwing in the General Fund and having a pizza party,” said Ms. McGuiness, a Rehoboth Beach commissioner. “I think you should line-item. … I do believe in picking the budget apart, like I’ve done with a business, and you look at each department and you see where they are.

“Sometimes you might have to make some adjustments. You look at the fraud, you look at the abuse and you look at the waste.”

New Castle County Register of Wills Ciro Poppiti touted his work in the position and as a lawyer. After being elected to the office in 2010, he went through tax records and collected $2.3 million for the county, he boasted.

“Is there anyone that knows more about fixing a backlog than me?” he said as he pledged to move more cases through the Board of Pardons.

Ms. Dorsey-Walker, a Wilmington councilwoman, referenced her work promoting abolishment of the death penalty for convicted killers as part of the group Delaware Repeal. The state needs to shift some of its focus from punishment to prevention, she argued.

She also urged people of differing views and backgrounds to work together toward a common goal, describing herself as the solution to the state’s problems.

“We cannot continue with the status quo in this state,” she said.

Greg Fuller, the former Sussex County register of wills, pointed to his work in the Department of Correction and the military, describing himself as a man of the people.

“I guarantee you that my word is what it is,” he said. “You may not always agree with it but one thing’s for sure, I’ll never tell you a lie.”

Kent Levy Court Commissioner Brad Eaby said his work crafting a county budget makes him qualified to be lieutenant governor. He cited the Kent County Regional Sports Complex, now known as DE Turf, as a success during his tenure. After a years-long, often arduous journey, the complex is now moving toward fruition.

“We were the first state to ratify the Constitution, Dec. 7, 1787,” Mr. Eaby said. “We can be first. We can be first in criminal justice reform. We can be first bringing the middle class back.”

The primary is Sept. 13.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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