Q&A: 14th Representative District candidates address issues

Name: James “Jim” DeMartino
Party: Republican Party
Office seeking: 14th district
Age: 61
Occupation: Lawyer
Family: Two adult sons
Elective experience: None

Name: Pete Schwartzkopf
Party: Democratic Party
Office seeking: State representative, 14th district
Age: 63
Occupation: Retired Delaware State Police captain (25 years), full-time legislator
Family: Wife, four children, six grandchildren
Elective experience: State representative, 2002-present; speaker of the House, 2012-present

Why are you running for this office?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: I grew up in this community, worked and raised my family here and am enjoying my life in a place I love. I have dedicated my entire life to public service, first as a lifeguard at our local beaches, then as a Delaware State Police trooper, rising to the rank of captain of nearby Troop 7.

As state representative, I have been focused on improving two main areas: local issues and statewide issues. Locally, I have worked to reduce the congestion and traffic on Del. Route 1, improving the roadway and making it more bikeable and walkable for travelers. I have fought for beach replenishment, advocated for clean water investments and worked to keep our communities safe, inclusive and inviting to all residents and visitors.

Statewide, I have worked to craft a balanced budget every year, which is our only constitutional duty. I will continue fighting to invest in infrastructure and for seniors, children, working families and anyone in need throughout the state.

What would be your top priority if elected?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: My top priority is always the residents of my district and their needs. Whether it’s traffic, public safety, clean water and quality of life, or something completely unexpected, responding to constituents is always the top priority as a representative.
On a government level, we are constitutionally charged with one job: Produce and pass a balanced operating budget. That is my top governmental priority each year. Along the way, we work to maintain essential services and take steps to improve education, invest in infrastructure and move Delaware forward.

If you could change one state policy or law, what would it be?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: There’s no one policy I would change.

What are your plans to boost economic development?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: Delaware took a major step forward in economic development this year with the signing of the 50-year lease with Gulftainer to manage the Port of Wilmington. With that agreement came a commitment to invest more than $500 million to upgrade and expand the port, which is the state’s largest asset. That would mean 6,000 new, well-paying jobs for Delaware workers in the next decade. I can’t understate how huge this deal is for our entire state.

Locally, opposing offshore drilling and preventing it from taking place off Delaware’s coastline could be one of the biggest ways to preserve our economic development, as tourism is our top industry at the beach, with 7 million visitors coming to our area each year. Any kind of drilling mishap could be catastrophic for our way of life.

What, if anything, should be done to increase revenue for the state or cut spending?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: This is an age-old argument: Everyone wants services, but no one wants to pay for them. People want — and deserve — high-quality education, paved roads, safe communities, drug treatment, access to health care and various other services.

Delaware has been through one of the worst economic crises in its history during the past decade. We cut our budget to the bone, keeping services that were deemed necessary. We have maintained our status as one of the lowest-taxed states in the nation and one of the few states with a triple-A bond rating.

We need to take a hard look at our revenue and determine whether it is stable — that it won’t fluctuate wildly if the economy falters. We need to be sure that our revenue structure is fair, that working families aren’t overburdened and that those who can pay into the system do.

Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: I have been open about my position on this issue. I have supported efforts to decriminalize marijuana and have sponsored bills expanding medical marijuana (which I supported when it passed). I have met numerous times with advocates and opponents of marijuana legalization. I am continuing to gather information on the issue. I did not vote in favor of the bill that was before us this year, but I am not closing myself off from the ongoing debate. I will continue to keep an open mind on this.

What, if any, gun laws would you change?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: I have supported several bills that are designed to make our communities safer by reducing gun violence. I believe in the Second Amendment and a person’s right to hunt and to protect and defend themselves and their property. But I also believe there are reasonable steps we can take to protect society as a whole.

I have sponsored a bill raising the age to purchase rifles to 21, the same as the federal law for handguns, treating all firearms the same (shotguns are excluded from this bill). I have supported a bill to promote the safe storage of firearms, a bill whose language almost matched the National Rifle Association’s own gun safety website word-for-word. These bills did not pass, but I would support them again in the coming session.

Would you vote for legislation reinstating the death penalty? Why or why not?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: I spent 25 years as a Delaware State Police trooper. I dealt with some of the worst offenders our state has seen. I do believe that there are certain instances that warrant the use of the ultimate punishment. I also believe that it should be used extremely rarely and only in circumstances where there is irrefutable evidence of the person’s guilt.

Do changes need to be made to the state’s employee health care structure? Why or why not?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: We took several steps in 2011 to shore up and fund Delaware’s pension and health care programs. We have come back periodically to review the health care aspect, but one thing must remain constant: We must continue to provide quality care for our workers at a reasonable cost.

The state of Delaware should lead by example in providing quality health care so workers don’t have to choose between medication or a procedure and putting food on the table. We have asked our employees to do more with less during the past decade, but less health care shouldn’t be part of that.

What should be done to combat Delaware’s drug crisis?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: The opioid epidemic has gripped our state in recent years, but we have taken several steps to address it. Perhaps the most important has been recognizing that this is an addiction, and those who are addicted need treatment, not criminal charges thrown at them. We must continue to invest in treatment, prevention and counseling. This is not an issue that will be solved this year or next year, but we have to continue making strides now to improve the situation.

Is there anything else you think is pertinent?

JM: Did not answer.

PS: Please remember to vote on Nov. 6. The most important thing everyone can do is participate in our elections, from the top of the ticket to the bottom. There are so many decisions that are made at the local level, and you have an important role to play by showing up and voting for the people you feel will best represent your values.

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