Lt. governor candidates stump at forum

 

From left, Candidates for Delaware’s next Lt. Governor Sen. Bethany Hall-Long,  Ex-Sussex County Register of Wills Greg Fuller;  Rehoboth Beach commissioner Kathy McGuiness; Kent County Levy Court vice-president Brad Eaby; Wilmington city councilwoman Sherry Dorsey Walker and New Castle County Register of Wills Ciro Poppiti III pose inside Delaware State University’s Bank of America building before Thursday night’s candidate forum.  (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

From left, Candidates for Delaware’s next Lt. Governor Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, Ex-Sussex County Register of Wills Greg Fuller; Rehoboth Beach commissioner Kathy McGuiness; Kent County Levy Court vice-president Brad Eaby; Wilmington city councilwoman Sherry Dorsey Walker and New Castle County Register of Wills Ciro Poppiti III pose inside Delaware State University’s Bank of America building before Thursday night’s candidate forum. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — More than 100 people gathered at Delaware State University Thursday to hear from the six lieutenant governor candidates in the first forum for the office held in Kent County.

With six Democrats running for the office, the race is crowded, and the hopefuls gathered before the audience Thursday sought to stand out as they spoke on issues like capital punishment, diversity and the economy.

Several candidates repeatedly cited their backgrounds in government, arguing they are the best choice for the vacant office. Applause was frequent, and a handful of people in the room wore shirts or stickers proclaiming their support for a certain candidate.

All six hopefuls championed traditional Democratic values at times during the forum, including opposition to capital punishment.

The pro-repeal stance marks a departure from previous actions in the case of Middletown Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, who voted against abolishing the penalty in 2013 and 2015.

Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown) gives her opening remarks at Thursday’s evening Lt. Governor candidate forum at DSU.  (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown) gives her opening remarks at Thursday’s evening Lt. Governor candidate forum at DSU. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“I think many of us who had to represent districts find it difficult we sometimes had to take votes maybe a little different than ours but when I was representing the Senate I had to vote at the time to keep the death penalty,” she said. “I have to say that I’m pleased that it is under review (by the Delaware Supreme Court) right now because I feel very strongly that there have sometimes been those that have been put to death that weren’t supposed to.”

Wilmington Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey Walker spoke enthusiastically about her work in the state’s largest city, promising to help create jobs and drawing some of the strongest applause of the night in response to a question about improving employment prospects for new college graduates.

“We make sure that when you come to us, come to Sherry Dorsey Walker, you will have a job. As long as I know you can do the job, you will have it,” she said. “I’m tired of, Well, we can’t give the job to that particular person because they’re not connected. No. Your connection will be the lieutenant governor.”

Levy Court Commissioner Brad Eaby took a different tact in answering the question.

Government does not create jobs, we need to all remember that,” he said. “But we do help people get jobs and we create a climate to get work.”

Speaking to an audience of many college students, New Castle County Register of Wills Ciro Poppiti promised to pay attention to the youth and repeatedly pointed to his work as register.

“In six years, I have generated as register of wills, this nothing position, $2.33 million in found money for New Castle County without raising one tax,” he said.

Kent County Levy Court vice-president Brad Eaby gives his opening statement as fellow Lt, Gov. candidate Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown) . (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Kent County Levy Court vice-president Brad Eaby gives his opening statement as fellow Lt, Gov. candidate Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown) . (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

The event was in many respects a repeat of last month’s forum in Newark, with candidates making many of the same arguments and even repeating lines they used at the earlier event.

Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Kathy McGuiness gave a metaphorical nod toward Democratic U.S. representative and gubernatorial hopeful John Carney at one point, noting she believes her own values align with his.

“We need a lieutenant governor who understands job creation and retention and understands how to pay their own employees and give them the benefits they deserve,” she said. “We need a lieutenant governor who needs to understand how to provide fair opportunities for all Delawareans regardless if it’s in the public or private sector.”

Former Sussex Register of Wills Greg Fuller spoke of his time in the military and with the Department of Correction, pledging he would serve the people.

“I want to be that individual who galvanizes the state, and believe me, I possess the necessary and essential qualifications of a servant’s heart to do it,” he said. “So if you give me that, I’m going to tell you now, that I will unite this state. I’m in the hedges. I’m in the highways, I’m in the byways, I’m with the people.”

The 2015 year-end campaign finance reports served as perhaps the first look at the relative strength of the candidates and their campaigns, with fundraising separating the candidates into two groups: those with significant financial resources and those without.

Mr. Poppiti, Sen. Hall-Long and Ms. McGuiness each had at least $77,000 on hand at the end of 2015. Ms. McGuiness led the way with $112,000 available

Mr. Fuller, Mr. Eaby and Ms. Dorsey-Walker all reported having 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.

The lieutenant governor is responsible for presiding over the Senate and serving on the Board of Pardons. The officeholder is the first in line to replace the governor should the office be vacated.

Thursday’s event was hosted by DSU Methodist Students Association and DSU College Democrats.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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