Primary Election: 14th Senatorial District

The Delaware State News presents profiles on the Republican and Democratic candidates for the 14th Senatorial District.

14th Senatorial District (D)

Name: Bruce C. Ennis

Age: 81

Residence: Smyrna

Family: Deceased wife, two daughters

Relevant experience: State representative 1982-2007, state senator 2007-present

Name: Kyra Hoffner

Age: Did not answer

Residence: Leipsic

Family: Husband, two children

Relevant experience: Did not answer

Name: Terrell Williams

Age: 38

Residence: Middletown

Family: Four children

Relevant experience: Army veteran (honorable discharged), Bachelor’s Degree in Social Relations (Cheyney University), Master’s Degree in Public Administration (Cheyney University), Juris Doctorate Degree (Western Michigan University Cooley Law School)

Why are you running for this seat?

BE: As an incumbent Senator, I desire to continue my work on behalf of my constituents in the 14th Senatorial District and I have been honored to represent during my tenure for many years. I have the experience, ability, necessary time and the desire to continue to do so if re-elected.

KH: I am running for this seat to be the change I know our community needs. As a volunteer and an advocate, I’ve been working against unjust laws that do not serve the citizens of the 14th District. Our district is large, and in the many years my opponent has held this seat, the needs of the community have changed. I want to make sure all of the citizens of the 14th district have a voice in government, and to facilitate create legislation that helps all, no matter their background.

TW: I am running for State Senate because Senator Ennis has failed to live up to his duties of representing us, the diverse collective of the 14th District. Throughout his time in the State senate, Senator Ennis has been silent on measures of progressive police reform, support of the LGBT community, and on significant minority issues. I am looking to become the change I believe Delaware needs in the State Assembly. I believe our elected officials should represent everyone in their district, not just some members of the district. I believe our state assembly should be representative of all Delawareans, not just a few Delawareans. In order to move Delaware forward, we must have progressive leadership that is willing to address all the issues affecting all of Delaware’s people.

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

BE: The major issues in the district are affordable health care especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting impact on employment and the economy and on our student educational instructional method. Without a more definitive treatment and a proven vaccine many constituents tend not to frequent restaurants and other small businesses as often.

KH: Now is a critical moment to address issues of social justice within the 14th District. My district is very large, vibrant, and diverse. It is critical that we proactively create legislation that protects and distributes community resources, so that all of our neighbors are safe when disaster strikes. The pandemic has highlighted many issues that must be prioritized to ensure the health and financial security of our citizens, including access to internet. We live in the digital age, with everything from work and school to doctor’s visits linked to the internet. It’s my goal to see that everyone in 14th Senate District has access to internet.

TW: District 14 is rapidly diversifying and is experiencing significant changes due to housing developments, construction, and population growth. Our district is changing from rural farmlands to burgeoning suburbia. Our demographics have changed from twenty years ago compared to today. One of the issues addressing District 14 is adequate funding for the local school districts. In order to ensure every Delawarean has equal opportunities at upward mobility, we must provide the academic resources needed to our teachers and students. We must provide the funding resources to ensure teachers can teach and schools can operate properly.

As our population in District 14 continues to grow, so does our traffic congestion and the amount of time we spend in our vehicles. We are not going to improve traffic in Delaware by building and repairing highways. We cannot continue to view revenue from tolls as a funding resource in Delaware. Now is the time for Delaware to significantly improve DART services and adequately fund public transportation in our state. Additionally, now is the time to connect Northern Delaware with Southern Delaware via a light rail system. By Delaware building a light rail system that connects Delaware’s public transit system with SEPTA and MARC systems, we can unite public train services from New York to Washington D.C. Additionally, Delaware now has the population and growth expectancy to support a modern public transportation system.

What would you like to see Delaware do differently in regard to coronavirus? In particular, should the state of emergency law be changed and has the state been transparent enough during the pandemic?

BE: Our state of emergency law should be improved allowing for greater transparency and participation of more stakeholders in decision making with regard to movement between phases and restrictions. Many are not following CDC approved guidelines and there has been crucial rising of infections in state that have re-opened to early.

KH: Compared to many other states in the nation, Delaware did a great job in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. We should continue listening to the experts and using science as our guide. We must prioritize the health and safety of our neighbors, while protecting the small businesses that our state has relied on to thrive. As we enter the next stage of the pandemic, I would advocate for more education around ways to limit the spread, including masks and social distancing.

TW: I would have loved to see Delaware ensure distressed communities receive the same testing opportunities that our more affluent communities are receiving. Additionally, I think it is the state responsibilities to ensure that the correct information is communicated to the public about Covid-19. I do not think we have done enough with testing in Black and Brown communities and spreading awareness about the disease in those communities. I think our state of emergency law is fine and worked as it was supposed to. I think that the state failed certain communities in Delaware on how testing and treatment was rolled out. However, for this situation, I think the state was transparent with the information about Covid-19 as much as possible. The information and guidance coming from Federal authorities was sporadic and insufficient most of the time and non-existent at other times. I will not blame the state for our federal partners incompetence.

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

BE: With regard to our health we should not have to depend on foreign countries for vaccine and should replenish our state and nations stockpiles of personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, gowns, and testing capabilities. The elderly and other with underlying medical conditions have been the most vulnerable so should be our first priority.

KH: The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed faults in our healthcare system. Too many people are dying because they don’t have access to healthcare. One emergency can bankrupt and displace many families across our district. The state of Delaware has adopted the expansion of Medicaid, but we still have 54,000 people uninsured. The Families First Act was implemented to help families in need due to costs associated with coronavirus but there is never a good time for illness of any kind to strike. The measures we’ve taken in response to coronavirus should be expanded for all healthcare treatment. Healthcare should be guaranteed to every citizen, regardless of medical history or employment.

TW: Our healthcare system is in shambles and is a system predicated on one’s financial ability to pay. Despite the great effort and compassion shown by our healthcare professionals, we saw first-hand how corporate greed decimated our healthcare system. We have an assembly-line healthcare system that at times was overwhelmed and vulnerable when faced with this pandemic. We also saw that triage care is not sufficient or stable enough to replace hospitals. Some of our communities’ lack adequate hospitals to treat our ill. As our hospitals become more specialized in certain areas of medicine and seek to become experimental research centers, we our losing hospital beds and services for common illnesses and treatment.

Moreover, the cost of healthcare is steadily rising, while the services being covered by medical insurance is steadily declining. Again, this is not an indictment on the healthcare professionals who worked tirelessly to treat the millions of Delawareans and Americans affected by Covid-19, they are the true heroes. However, the collateral damage from medical treatment costs from Covid-19, will be a huge hurdle facing many Americans as we look to avoid another financial recession. How do we change our healthcare system? First, we need to reestablish Obamacare to its full operating capacity. We must ensure Delaware has sufficient hospitals to service our population. We must create a sliding scale cost chart to ensure all Delawareans are able to access healthcare and treatment. We must stop hospitals and insurance companies from up charging prices for treatment and cap medical malpractice suites in Delaware.

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

BE: To educate students while keeping people safe from COVID-19 schools should continue to follow the emergency guidelines approved by the CDC during the period of our state of emergency. As new phases are directed, opening up should include proper restrictions as are expected to be outlined.

KH: Our children are our greatest assets and we must work to protect them both physically and mentally. Students should know the risks and how important it is to be safe during these times. We must tailor the educational system to provide educators and every student the tools to learn safely, so that we are not only serving students this year, but through future challenges.

TW: We must ensure that our educator and students are safe from Covid-19, until we have a vaccine or develop a responsive treatment for this disease. We must continue with at home virtual learning until we are sure we can prevent the spread of this disease. I know many Delawareans are not happy with this answer, but I cannot risk the safety and wellbeing of one life, knowing the risks of this disease. We are nearing 2 million American deaths from the Covid-19, we are entering flu season, haven’t we lost enough American lives by ignoring the consequences of this disease? I will not support in-person learning until we have effective treatment for Covid-19 or a vaccine.

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

BE: The state should offer financial assistance where possible for basic needs until such a time more employment becomes available. In many cases, job retraining will be required since the pandemic has resulted in the loss of existing trades and job opportunities.

KH: The state should give businesses easy access to the specific protective gear needed for essential workers. By doing so, businesses, employees, and customers to that particular establishment will all be protected. Businesses that do not require customer contact should move to a virtual work force. This will help cut down on the risk with keeping employees productive and the company thriving.

TW: To relieve the immediate financial threat that many Delaware small businesses are facing, I would propose a bill that immediately offers state tax breaks to any commercial landlord who moves past due rental payments to the end of current leases. For Delaware’s private landlords I would propose legislation that would create tax break incentives for landlords who forgo evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, I would advocate for additional short-term funding to assist Delaware businesses facing hardships during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lastly, I would propose legislation to increase the Delaware unemployment benefit rate by 30% to ensure Delawareans depended upon the benefit can better support themselves.

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

BE: I believe the current level of state spending is satisfactory based on the DEFAC growth benchmarks that have been established. The state budget provides for authority for spending only 98% of financial forecast leaving the remaining for the budget reserve account serving as a rainy day fund.

KH: I think the state does a great job being conscience of its spending. I do believe more money should be invested in communities in need of social services, to best benefit the residents of our state.

TW: Did not answer.

Would you support gun control measures?

BE: Based on both the state and federal constitutions on the right to bear arms, I do not support all of the gun control measures. Strict enforcement of current gun laws and the reduction of the large number of plea bargaining would help to ensure those who choose not to abide by the statutes are dealt with rather than affecting our law abiding citizens.

KH: Yes, I would support gun control measures. I believe in common sense legislation that does not infringe on the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. I believe we need more gun safety education before the purchase of a firearm of any type, to avoid guns falling into the hands of children. Preserving the rights and safety of my constituents is my top priority.

TW: I am in support of responsible gun ownership in the state of Delaware. I support our current state guidelines on conceal carry licenses. I believe our 2nd Amendment is clear about the right to bear arms, but like any historical document, the context cannot be applied in a vacuum. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the State to ensure that citizens within its jurisdiction are compliant with modern gun safety measures to ensure weapons are secured and out of reach of any unauthorized person. Additionally, I will write a bill requiring gun owners who possess high powered assault rifles to secure these weapons in a steel gun safe with multiple layers of security to prevent unintended use. Also, I will write a bill requiring owners of 5 or more high power assault rifles to carry additional liability insurance to ensure victims of gun violence have financial recourse in case of injury or death. Finally, I will propose a bill creating a taskforce to go after individuals who are barred from gun ownership and illegally apply to purchase firearms.

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

BE: Proposed changes to policing and our criminal justice system are under study and review by the two task forces as a result of recent legislation. The two groups are comprised of a number of stakeholders who are to report their findings and recommendations to the General Assembly for consideration. Several reform measures have been enacted in the last General Assembly.

KH: We must seek structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in our society. The goal of the justice system is to protect all citizens. However, our criminal justice system has disproportionally targeted communities of color and people living in poverty. We should be working to reduce recidivism rates while investing in the education and workforce of communities affected by crime. We must focus on reforming how police work is conducted. Our police need to be trained and educated annually to best understand the evolving needs of our communities. At the same time, we need to invest in social services to help respond to social issues, including assisting homeless or mentally ill individuals, to alleviate the concentration of calls to police.

TW: Clearly today our state and local law enforcement agencies need reform. New laws and policies are desperately needed to ensure transparency and justice for the actions of criminally and willfully negligent officers. We must dismantle and challenge the policies and mechanisms used by law enforcement agencies and their unions that allow these officers to avoid prosecution for their conduct.

Contrary to what many law enforcement agencies may believe, one bad officer does spoil the image of the entire profession. Police reform that addresses the valid concerns of Black citizens cannot be fixed in one or two lines of a legislative bill. Under Delaware Law, Title 11 Chapter 92; the Law-Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights restricts the release of personnel information relating to suspensions and other disciplinary actions of a police officer. In order to move Delaware’s law enforcement agencies forward, personnel records and investigative reports must be available for public scrutiny. If it is the intention of Delaware’s law enforcement agencies to build trust and equity in communities of color, then transparency and accountability must be characteristics that are hallmarks of any treaties.

In regard to criminal justice reform, we must expand expungements and record sealing opportunities for citizens who have gone a significant period of time with no contact with our criminal justice system. Delawareans who have committed crimes previously but have reformed themselves into productive members of society should not have to bear the burden of felon when applying for jobs. I propose sealing some felony records after 10-12 years of no contact with the criminal justice system.

Additionally, we mus create a system where justice is equitable and not just repetitive. We cannot continue to fine people who are incapable of paying the financial penalties. We must develop a better system for restitution which should include more community service-based initiatives. Restorative justice should be more than just imprisonment, probation, and fines. We have the ability in Delaware to move our criminal justice system forward by creating alternative forms of corrective action.

What do you make of the state of race relations in the US and particularly Delaware?

BE: The state of race relations in the US and Delaware is what the above two stated task forces have been initiate to thoroughly address. While I fully support the right to peacefully protest, I am offended by those who commit acts of violence creating threats of panic, looting, destruction of property and assaults on our firemen and law enforcement officers.

KH: Our system is in desperate need of reform. People of color have been left out for far too long. Our education, criminal justice system, healthcare, employment, and many of our other systems meant to support our community leave behind people of color.

TW: I believe we are at a crossroads of sort with the level of hate and acts of racism we are seeing in Delaware and in America. I think our tolerance and appreciation for our differences are dividing us instead of bringing us together. I feel as though some of our elected leaders have fueled this divide by using coded language and reinforcing culturally insensitive stereotypes. However, I have been witnessing Delawareans (Americans) coming together to defeat racism and working really hard to silence those who may harbor those sentiments. We can only improve race relations and defeat racism by embracing our differences. The founding idea of America was that it was to be a melting pot of difference people. We are still trying to figure out how best to achieve that goal, but I am encouraged by most Delawareans working together to defeat hate.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?

BE: As an elected official, I have taken pride in attempting to address constituent concerns whether municipal, county, state or on a federal level and I intend to continue to do so if re-elected. While all problems can’t be resolved to satisfaction, I enjoy trying to address them.

KH: It’s time we start putting people first. It’s time we start serving everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, equally. For far too long well-funded corporations and individuals have decided what laws have been important to our communities no matter the consequences it has on us. I will be the candidate to work for all the citizens of District 14.

TW: www.movedelawareforward.com

14th Senatorial District (R)

Name: Craig D. Pugh

Age: 58

Residence: Leipsic

Family: Wife, Joanne Pugh; son, Matthew Pugh and his family; father, Horace Pugh; mother, Maggie Pugh; brother, Mark Pugh and his family; father-in-law, Joseph F. Nickerson Sr.

Relevant experience: Mayor of town of Leipsic for 18 years, lifetime member of the Leipsic Volunteer Fire Company, Delaware waterman for over 40 years.

Name: Terry Baker

Age: Did not answer

Residence: Did not answer

Family: Did not answer

Relevant experience: Did not answer

Why are you running for this seat?

CP: Providing a needful balance to our constituency within the 14th Senate District towards our future will depend on the decisions we coordinate among the communities we live in. My hope is to bring functional government that reflects a satisfied constituent base that should ring out with the people’s voice.

TB: Did not answer.

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

CP: The ultimate issue is providing for and securing our children’s future. To recognize and encourage their potential as it relates to future needs within our communities. Support training flexible enough to provide skill levels that apply to future job markets that ultimately will support the families that our children raise. Jobs and business growth can be cultivated through Delaware’s diverse resources. Industry, agriculture, tourism are just a few that lend themselves to sustainable job creation.

The reliance of business growth will depend on providing diverse, ambitious opportunities that have the ability to maintain and nurture a wonderful quality of life for our families that grow here in Delaware. Small business must be able to flourish in order to create a vast work base that supports and patronizes the communities they serve. Commitment to the environment we live and recreate in is reliant on the capability that the estuary can rejuvenate itself. Stewardship offered to the waterways and the many inhabitants that exist there is our responsibility as we plan for the future.

TB: Did not answer.

What would you like to see Delaware do differently in regard to coronavirus? In particular, should the state of emergency law be changed and has the state been transparent enough during the pandemic?

CP: Emergency Action after 30 days must have legislative approval required in order to go forward. Never should our Constitution go on vacation. The extinguishment of our rights through the pandemic in Delaware has brought forth the need to be clear as to how the people are to be governed through Emergency Action and just what defines an action situation. Modeling used has been found to be way off in the predictions. Which stands to reason when a model is only as good as the reference points used to retrieve the result. The inclusion or exclusion of the reference points used become policy drivers.

Politics, if you will, included in our best available science from the beginning, has led to gross inaccuracy. A break down of included reference points for full verification to the public to my knowledge has not been offered for examination. It is okay to question the authoritarian in charge and hold them accountable when our Constitutional Liberties are stripped as we move the goal post though out time.

TB: Did not answer.

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

CP: Not being a medical student and certainly not capable of knowing all the health impacts of the virus, it is now time to gather those with this knowledge in order to find credible solutions so we in Delaware can respond to any future health crisis. The public opinion must also be a part as to what vetted solutions are acceptable practice as we go forward.

TB: Did not answer.

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

CP: Our children are our greatest investment when looking to the future. Educational innovation is a necessity as we find the balance of safety, instruction and funding of our teaching institutions in order to prepare and encourage positive development.

TB: Did not answer.

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

CP: Long overdue; open up. The first goal post was to round the curve. Personal options not mandates are what the business community needs; as disparity and true soul searching become reality to those closing long term family shops. The authorities in charge are incapable of understanding this destructive bureaucratic force that rips at the entrepreneurial spirit of Delaware’s small businesses. Imagine this world where bureaucrats continue receiving their incomes unimpeded while telling those in business for themselves to bury your head in the sand and don’t come out. True strength in society comes from the relationships formed as we patronize each other’s businesses creating vibrancy and connectivity within our communities.

TB: Did not answer.

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

CP: As Mayor of the Town of Leipsic for 18 years, I will acknowledge that fiscal responsibility has always been a conscious part of our council leadership. Sometimes hard to live within your means but is a responsibility we owe all our taxpayers.

TB: Did not answer.

Would you support gun control measures?

CP: I have operated a unique small business for over 35 years that has afforded the opportunity to employ myself with a firearm outside of the law enforcement field, without incident. This small business has served hundreds of men, women, and children with instructive, educated, interaction of shooting skills and environmental appreciation. I support your Second Amendment rights.

TB: Did not answer.

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

CP: I support all law enforcement personnel, Police, Probation and Parole, Department of Corrections. All those that lay their lives on the line daily and sometimes pay the ultimate price. Protection for our communities is paramount and should not be taken for granted. Those that give of themselves to the service are to be respected and upheld for protecting the lives and property of the citizens they serve while risking their own.

TB: Did not answer.

What do you make of the state of race relations in the US and particularly Delaware?

CP: Schools are the institutions of knowledge. What knowledge is provided to our children directly impacts society. History has the ability to show the good and the bad. Many great leaders of color advanced and risked their personal future for the betterment of their race. Little teaching of these great examples make their way to our children. So, when put in an awful position in life, it is sometimes easier to look upon someone with a greater debt to pay in order to self-adjust. Civil War Reconstruction brought forth some of the greatest examples of racial activism and leadership with major changes to our constitution; under much more in my opinion, stressful and desperate times than those of today. Leadership to be proud of and to be used as a source of unity and education for all.

TB: Did not answer.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?

CP: Did not answer.

TB: Did not answer.