Primary election U.S. Senate candidate surveys

The Delaware State News presents profiles on the Democratic and Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Senate (D)

Name: Christopher A. Coons

Age: 56

Residence: Wilmington

Family: Annie Coons (wife); Mike, Jack and Maggie Coons (children)

Relevant experience: Yale Divinity School and Yale Law School graduate (1992). Judicial clerk for Judge Jane Roth of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Previously employed by the Investor Responsibility Research Center, the National Coalition for the Homeless, the National “I Have a Dream” Foundation and W.L. Gore & Associates. Former New Castle County Council president and county executive.

Name: Jessica Scarane

Age: 35

Residence: Wilmington

Family: Married

Relevant experience: Former board president of a local nonprofit, director of business strategy for a digital firm.

Why are you running for this seat?

CC: I’m running for reelection to the U.S. Senate because I want to continue fighting for Delawareans and delivering results for our state. From reducing the costs of health care and prescription drugs, to addressing gun violence and taking on climate change, there’s so much work to be done; I want to ensure that in all those debates, the voices of all Delawareans are represented.

I’m also running for office because I believe in public service and giving back to the communities and the state where I grew up. The most common thing I hear from Delawareans is that they want their representatives in Congress to stop bickering, to work together and to get things done. That’s the attitude I bring to work each day, and I’m proud of everything we’ve already been able to accomplish for Delaware.

JS: For years, I’ve worked within the system to make my city and state better: I tutored and mentored young students, served on the board of a local nonprofit that runs after-school programs for Delaware girls and lobbied my elected officials to support policies that would prioritize our needs, not the profits of corporations and special interests. While I remain proud of those individual impacts, I know it isn’t enough. If we don’t fix the underlying problems, we’ll just treat the symptoms forever.

That’s why I decided to run for office — because our current system is not working for the majority of people. I believe that everyone deserves a good education, health care, a place to call home and clean air and water. I’m running for Senate to guarantee that everyone’s basic needs are met through programs like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Instead of cutting deals with Republicans that exacerbate racism and inequality, I will fight for policies that improve the lives of hardworking Delawareans, so we can build a state and country that works for all of us.

What do you see as the major issues in this election?

CC: Protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Rebuilding our economy and ensuring that Americans can work and support themselves and their families. Taking real action to address climate change. As the co-chair of the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, I’ve brought together Republicans and Democrats to move forward common-sense solutions on climate change. Addressing the deep racial divides, stemming from our country’s original sin of slavery, and making society more just and equitable for all.

JS: The major issues in this election are the health care, housing, economic, environmental and racial justice crises our country faces. I believe that we need urgent action to tackle these crises: a comprehensive single-payer health care system, guaranteed housing, a minimum wage of at least $15/hour, a Green New Deal and to re-imagine public safety and policing. My opponent, Sen. Coons, does not meaningfully support any of these proposals. Too many people are suffering. We can’t afford to wait while our elected officials nibble around the edges of these problems. We need to tackle the root causes of injustice and inequity and fight for policies that will ensure a dignified standard of living for everyone in our country.

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

CC: We must ensure that our workers have the essential personal protective equipment they need to be safe and effective at their jobs. We must also ensure that state and local governments have the level of support they need from the federal government to treat every person who seeks care, while ensuring that racial disparities influencing the level and outcome of treatments are addressed from the top. It is imperative that we continue to protect and expand upon the ACA, so that every sick individual has the coverage they need to be treated and cared for, without fear of being refused care. We also need to ensure that community health centers receive funding to provide preventive health care that all Delaware families need.

JS: There are two ways our health care system should change in response to coronavirus. The first is short term: We must deal with the immediate effects of the virus. We need to ensure that all our health care workers have the protective equipment they need and the availability of widespread testing and contact tracing, and that treatment is free for everyone who needs it. The second is long term: This pandemic has made clear that health insurance should not be tied to employment, since millions of people have been kicked off their insurance in the midst of a global health crisis. Through Medicare for All, we can guarantee comprehensive health care to every person in this country, no matter their employment status or income level.

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

CC: Right now, families across our state are struggling with the challenging decision about whether to send their children to school or keep them home. They are also struggling with how to help their kids be successful in remote learning, while balancing jobs and other family commitments and needs. For many children, schools are more than classrooms. They are safe places where they have access to meals, health services, counselors and support. I continue to fight to make sure that our schools, state government and families have the resources they need to meet the unique challenges of this pandemic, including training for staff, access to technology, reliable internet service, nutrition programs and more.

There is still so much we do not know or understand about this virus. That’s why I called for a broad and comprehensive pediatric study, so that we can accurately assess the potential threat this virus poses to our children and make decisions based in science.

JS: I believe that schools should operate remotely for as long as COVID-19 makes in-person classes unsafe. With that said, we need to do everything we can to support students, teachers and parents with the resources they need for successful remote learning. This means increased technical support for households who need it, sufficient teaching staff to lower classroom sizes to handle the added difficulties of distance, universal high-speed broadband internet and ensuring that children who receive nutrition assistance and counseling at school get those services at home.

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

CC: Since the COVID-19 pandemic began threatening our country early this year, I’ve worked day and night to help protect Delawareans from this virus and help our economy weather the economic fallout it has caused.

I’ve worked with my colleagues in Congress to pass several trillion dollars’ worth of economic aid, from direct assistance to families in need and enhanced unemployment benefits, to grants and loans to small businesses in need. Those measures have allowed us to avoid another Great Depression, and they’ve saved businesses throughout the country. But there’s more work that we have to get done.

I’m fighting to provide continued, needed assistance for small businesses that are still struggling to stay afloat, and I’m also working hard to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, while also working to actively prevent evictions and homelessness. Solving these issues, however, requires a public health solution, and that’s why I’m doing everything I can to expand our nation’s testing capacity and help ensure that when a vaccine is developed, we’re able to quickly and safely manufacture it here in the United States for everyone who needs it.

I’m also working to ensure that the federal government provides desperately needed support to state and local governments — and the teachers, first responders and other critical employees they employ. Finally, I am doing everything I can to ensure that everyone is able to safely and securely participate in our elections this fall, by providing the funding and resources necessary to allow all citizens to vote by mail.

JS: The government should be doing everything it can to help workers and businesses stay afloat. Most of the stimulus initiatives that were passed in the spring have expired or ended, despite the COVID-19 pandemic being far from over. We need to renew expanded unemployment benefits and support individuals and small businesses with direct assistance. We need to ensure that no evictions occur while the pandemic continues and provide permanent rent and mortgage relief for those in need. Additionally, we need oversight to ensure corporations and the wealthy don’t profit by taking resources away from those who need it.

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

CC: I believe we need a federal budget that reflects the needs and values of our country. We need to keep our commitments to seniors and others who depend on Social Security and Medicare. We need to bring down our national debt and spending but in a strategic manner that reflects the pressing needs of American families, state and local governments and small business owners in this pandemic.

JS: My concern is not with the total amount of government spending, but rather what the government is spending money on and whether people’s basic needs are being met. For example, I would advocate for additional government spending to ensure that health care and housing are treated as human rights, but I would push to lower our country’s bloated defense budget and repeal tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Would you support gun control measures?

CC: Thoughts and prayers are not enough. I’m proud to have been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, the Giffords PAC and Brady United, because I am committed to passing responsible legislation to keep our communities and citizens safe. I am also proud to be a Gun Sense Candidate and to work with members of the Moms Demand Action Delaware chapter to pass critical legislation in Washington and in Dover.

I am leading efforts to truly enforce our existing background check laws through the NCIS Denial Notification Act, a bill that will ensure that any time a prohibited person lies on a background check form and tries to buy a gun, law enforcement is notified. This short bill would close a gaping loophole in 34 states, including Delaware. I am also sponsoring several important, current gun safety measures, including Senate Bill 3065, the Safe Gun Storage Act of 2019; Senate Bill 184, the Gun Violence Prevention Research Act; Senate Bill 1831, the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019; Senate Bill 42, the Background Check Expansion Act; and Senate Bill 66, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019.

JS: I am in favor of universal background checks, closing the boyfriend and gun show loopholes and measures to make sure everyone who purchases a gun knows how to operate and store it safely. But ultimately, I believe gun violence is a systemic problem that stems from a lack of resources and investment in communities. To end gun violence, we must address the root causes: poverty and lack of opportunity.

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

CC: I first became involved in social justice as a young man, advocating for the homeless and working to end apartheid in South Africa, because I believe in a just world for all. I’ve spent much of my adult and elected life supporting civil rights legislation and initiatives, and I am deeply committed to continuing to do so, particularly when it comes to policing and criminal justice reform in America.

That’s why I am an original co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, which makes lynching a federal hate crime, ends racial profiling, enhances the ability of prosecutors to bring federal charges against police officers who criminally violate Americans’ constitutional rights and helps the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division investigate systematic police misconduct. I also support Vice President Joe Biden’s plans, which include preventing crime while focusing on economic justice, eliminating racial disparities and ensuring fair sentences, offering second chances and focusing on rehabilitative services, reducing violence in our communities and supporting survivors, and ending for-profit prisons.

JS: We need to dramatically transform the way policing works in this country and re-imagine public safety as a concept rooted in the health, safety and prosperity of all people. This starts with increased transparency, accountability and an emphasis on restorative justice. We must demilitarize police departments, end qualified immunity and establish a national database to ensure that police who commit brutality are not hired elsewhere. Wellness checks should be done by social workers, not the police. We need to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by replacing cops in schools with counselors and mental health professionals as part of a comprehensive investment in students’ wellness and safety. I would work to end mass incarceration by eliminating mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws, cash bail and the war on drugs. We must decriminalize poverty so that we can decarcerate our communities.

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

CC: For too long, our nation has left unaddressed systemic inequities stemming from the original sin of this nation — slavery — and that is nationally and in Delaware, which was actually one of the last states to end slavery in 1865.

We must confront the injustices that are rooted deep in our society and institutions and provide for economic justice, so that Black and brown families can create generation wealth, and eliminate biases in our criminal justice, health care, education and government bodies.

JS: Our nation and state are in the middle of a long overdue reckoning over the way people of color, and Black people specifically, are treated. Police brutality, mass incarceration, the COVID-19 crisis and the economic downturn have all disproportionately hurt communities of color. It is not enough for our leaders to make speeches acknowledging these injustices; we need policy changes to end the deeply rooted inequality across criminal justice, health care, housing, education and economic systems. If we are going to dismantle systemic racism, we can’t just rely on universal social programs. We must desegregate our schools and neighborhoods, end environmental racism and pass redistributive policies that give wealth, resources and autonomy to people of color.

Are you concerned about the legitimacy of the 2020 elections?

CC: I am concerned about President Donald Trump’s attempts to suppress the vote by manipulating the U.S. Postal Service and ignoring ongoing attempts of foreign governments and actors to influence our elections. I and my colleagues in the U.S. Congress are working diligently to protect the integrity of our elections and ensure their legitimacy.

JS: We should always be vigilant when it comes to efforts to suppress the vote. I am especially concerned about the election this November due to the pandemic and recent actions taken by the Trump administration to undermine the U.S. Postal Service. Voter suppression, particularly in majority Black precincts, has always been a problem in this country. But the threat of election interference and increased voter suppression is especially worrisome this cycle, and our leaders should be taking every step they can to ensure that no one’s vote is left uncounted.

How would you summarize President Donald Trump’s tenure?

CC: Divisive, destructive and disappointing.

JS: President Trump’s tenure has been defined by incompetence, corruption, authoritarianism and bigotry. From the beginning, he has stoked division and promoted white supremacy through the Muslim ban, the border wall construction and his policy of family separation. He left us woefully unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, and his subsequent response has been a complete lack of leadership. His use of federal troops to respond to protests against police brutality is an outrage. His tenure has been shameful, and he needs to be resoundingly defeated this November.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?

CC: I am running for reelection and ask that you visit our site, chriscoons.com, to learn more about our campaign and vote early in the Sept. 15 Democratic primaries!

JS: I deeply believe that our representatives should only be beholden to the people. For this reason, I am running a grassroots campaign that does not accept any corporate PAC money. I hope you will stand with me Sept. 15 to put people over profits as Delaware’s first woman senator.

U.S. Senate (R)

Name: Lauren Witzke

Age: 32

Residence: Delmar

Family: Did not answer

Relevant experience: Teen program director, Trump Victory field director, pharmaceutical sales, business administration degree.

Name: James “Jim” DeMartino

Age: 62

Residence: Lewes

Family: Married, two adult sons

Relevant experience: U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer with over 15 years of service. A practicing attorney in the areas of government contracts and criminal law. A former defense contractor both in operations and as a program manager supporting the U.S. Navy with weapon systems development. Candidate for Delaware state representative (District 14) in 2016 and 2018.

Why are you running for this seat?

LW: I am running for this seat because the establishment on both sides of the aisle have sold out Americans for far too long. Americans are tired of being represented by career politicians and out-of-touch lawyers. Bipartisan elites have continuously passed legislation that puts the American working class last. For my generation, raising a family and getting married seems out of reach. Rather than the “American dream,” many have ended up hopelessly addicted instead.

The opioid epidemic has claimed the lives of far too many. I want a country that puts Americans first, in which marriage and family is not an out-of-reach pipe dream.

JD: To protect the constitutional rights of all Delawareans and restore law and order to our cities and communities. To protect everyone’s life, liberty and property and to improve the economic environment for small businesses, so they can create jobs in Delaware.

What do you see as the major issues in this election?

LW: The most central issue for my campaign has consistently been the issue of immigration. American workers deserve first dibs at high-skill jobs. Thousands have been replaced by temporary work visas, and 50% of our science, technology, engineering and math graduates can’t find work in their field because they have to compete with cheap foreign labor. I want to make it easier for Americans to work and raise families. The radical left, however, is burning our cities in pursuit of a Marxist revolution. While such radical movements pretend to support working class Americans, they want to destroy the values of most working class Americans.

Breaking down the “Western-style nuclear family,” as the Black Lives Matter website advocates for, is the last thing that our nation needs. Also, I will be addressing America’s opioid epidemic, as this is something that is very close to my heart because I am in recovery myself. Stopping the flow of deadly drugs into this country, as well as providing Americans with recovery solutions (such as long-term residential facilities), is central to my platform.

JD: To restore law and order in our state and our country. Support our police and enforce the law to protect our citizens. Restore and improve our economy to pre-COVID-19 conditions. Improve the health care system to be the best quality medical services in the world at an affordable cost for all individuals, families and businesses.

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

LW: Our health care system should never again be reliant on equipment and medication produced outside of the United States. During the beginning of the pandemic, we found ourselves relying on China — which effectively sent the virus here by allowing travel out of Wuhan to the United States — for personal protective equipment, sanitizer and even pharmaceuticals. Our health care system should become more self-reliant. All items essential for our health care system should be manufactured in the United States by America companies and American workers.

JD: We must develop and manufacture pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in the United States of America. We must be prepared for future physical, biological, chemical and cyber attacks and disasters, whether natural or man-made, with contingency plans and adequate supplies to sustain us through the crisis.

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

LW: COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for parents to explore alternatives to the public school system, whose school boards have been infiltrated by radicals who think indoctrinating our children with LGBTQ and transgender ideology is essential curriculum. The state and federal government should make parental choice easier. Whether it be private schools or home-schooling alternatives, the power should be put back in the hands of the parents. Funding should follow the children.

JD: We must reopen our schools and return to pre-COVID-19 operations, while maintaining proper personal hygiene and clean facilities.

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

LW: Relaxing the excessive restrictions and letting Americans get back to work would be a good start. Suicides and overdoses have skyrocketed since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions. The “fix” has been more deadly than the virus. Also, prioritizing Americans for jobs over foreign workers — with 40 million Americans out of work, there is no reason to import more cheap foreign labor to displace the American workforce.

JD: Government needs to remove restrictions on business and get people back to work. An interim extension of unemployment should be passed by Congress to meet the immediate financial needs of those unemployed.

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

LW: I’m more concerned with what we are spending our money on. Far too often, our spending is wasteful, benefiting the special-interest groups with the most effective lobbyists. Our government should be investing in the American family, rather than corporate and foreign interests.

JD: Fiscal responsibility must be resumed as soon as the economy has rebounded from this current crisis. Government spending must be limited by cutting unnecessary programs and authorizing the line-item veto.

Would you support gun control measures?

LW: All Americans have the right to defend themselves and their families with the best available technology. This right should never be infringed, especially when there are mobs of rioters in our streets.

JD: No! I support our U.S. and Delaware constitutions.

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

LW: For one, we shouldn’t be negotiating with Marxist mobs. So long as there are rioters in our streets, police reform should not be on the table. We cannot appease the mob. Officers should be allowed to police our streets and keep our communities safe without fear of losing their jobs or getting charged with crimes for justified force. Any wrongdoing on an officer’s part should be handled in the justice system with a fair trial. I support more funding for the police, so they can hire more officers and more equipment.

JD: We must not allow defunding of the police. Police training methods and equipment should always be state of the art. The function of government is to protect its citizens. The criminal justice system needs additional reform just like any organization or policy. There are always methods and procedures to improve. First and foremost, we must enforce the law and protect all our citizens with a fair and impartial judicial system.

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

LW: Thanks to Marxists attempting to reframe their classic class struggle into racial terms, the state of race relations has been severely strained. When radical groups reference things such as systematic racism, they aren’t really interested in addressing racism at all. They are using the racial narrative as a mechanism to tear down our institutions that stand in the way of the communist system that they would like to implement. Sadly, a lot of well-intentioned people have fallen for it, and this Marxist organization has leveraged Black lives to throw Black lives into the front lines of a race war.

JD: Race relations and conditions have improved over many years, and it must always continue to improve, so we can all live in peace and harmony and prosperity. However, identity politics has created a divide and animosity between all groups, especially with the Black community. This must stop! Government must not allow violence and the destruction of property to continue. We must answer injustices with discussion not destruction.

Are you concerned about the legitimacy of the 2020 elections?

LW: Yes. A vote-by-mail system is flawed on the surface, especially when placed in the hands of a union that has endorsed a candidate. But the Department of Elections is the primary culprit. They send ballots to all registered voters without verifying their current information. There is no way to verify who is sending the ballot. These things are being mailed to dead people. Also, Hillary Clinton’s recent comments imploring Joe Biden “ … not to concede under any circumstance” shows that the Democrats aren’t interested in a fair and free election. They just want power by any means necessary.

JD: Yes! Delaware has implemented new secure computer voting machines this year. All votes should be processed through these machines. Mail-in voting has too many inconsistencies, with a lack of security and control measures from the receipt to the return of the ballot.

How would you summarize President Donald Trump’s tenure?

LW: President Trump has accomplished more than expected for someone impeded by the establishment with hoax after hoax. He was spied on by the Obama administration based on a fake dossier, on a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant that was obtained based upon the fraud of FBI assistant general counsel Kevin Clinesmith. President Trump was chosen by the American people and not the D.C. political bureaucracy. That is the real reason behind all these manufactured scandals by the elites and their propaganda assets in the mainstream media.

JD: An outstanding record of successes: reduced unemployment, improved economy, reduction in taxes and regulations, and improved foreign trade.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?

LW: The people of Delaware deserve representation from someone who is not part of the political establishment and wants to put them first before anyone else. I want to restore our rightful place as hardworking Delawareans and Americans. Let’s build our families again — and with our families as a foundation, our society and culture will be healthy and prosperous. This is a stark contrast to the vision for our country presented by the left and even the Republicans who pander to them. That vision is playing out right in the streets of major U.S. cities. If you haven’t noticed, they’re burning.

JD: This election will determine our country’s history and our future. All Americans must decide whether their core principles of religion, belief in God and the health and well-being of their children are based on our U.S. Constitution and the freedom and prosperity we’ve developed for over 244 years or a future of limited achievement and government control. That is the clear distinction between Republican and Democrat this year. Registered Democrats can vote Republican. This year, I ask registered Democrats to vote Republican to safeguard our future and the future of all children.