Q&A: 17th Senate District candidates take on questions

Name: Justin King
Party: Republican
Office seeking: 17th Senate District
Age: 36
Occupation: Self-employed and mayor of Camden
Family: One child
Elective experience: In third term as mayor of Camden, previously sat on council and vice mayor for 3.5 years

Name: Charles “Trey” Paradee
Party: Democrat
Office seeking: State Senate, 17th District
Age: 49
Occupation: Small-business owner
Family: Charlie (19), Cassie (24)
Elective experience: State representative for the 29th District, elected in 2012

Why are you running for this office?

JK: As mayor, I have worked closely with people of all parties and all backgrounds to make Camden a better place. I want to take that proven track record and ability to work with all stakeholders to the state Senate to be able to help more people.

TP: I am running for state Senate because I care about my community. I enjoy helping people. I believe that my upbringing in the community, my educational background and my work experiences make me uniquely qualified to serve the residents of Dover, Camden and Wyoming. I understand how hard it is to raise a family, pay a mortgage and operate a small business. I have tried my best to be a force for good in my community by volunteering and serving others.

My family has lived here for several generations, and, like you, if I ever have grandchildren, I would like to see them raised in a Delaware that boasts a clean, safe environment, world-class schools and quality jobs for everyone who wants to work.

What would be your top priority if elected?

JK: As a former police officer, public safety has always been my passion. We have a crime problem here in the 17th District, and I will use my experience as a former law enforcement officer and as mayor to combat that problem and make the streets safer for everyone.

TP: My first priority is to provide the best possible constituent service and be accessible and helpful to the people who I am privileged to represent. Second, I will continue to support initiatives that make state government more open and transparent because citizens should trust their government and know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely. Third, I will continue to push for a leaner, more effective government that prioritizes investments in infrastructure and education in order to create better paying jobs and improve our economy.

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

JK: The one thing I would change about state government is the culture. We do not have a workplace culture focused on delivering value to the taxpayers. I would do whatever it takes to measure more programs, institute policies that encourage employees to deliver value and eliminate programs that aren’t working. If we do that, we can be the First State that our citizens deserve.

Trey Paradee

TP: We need to change the way we fund our public education system. Like most Delawareans, I support the referendum process that Delaware has used for many years. It is the only tax that you, as an individual, are able to vote on. However, we have created a public school system of have and have-nots. Clearly, some districts have more resources, better facilities and are able to attract and retain better educators. In addition, the referendum process has devolved into a political endeavor complete with yard signs, call centers and mailers.

Meanwhile, school districts that have a higher percentage of English second language learners and a higher percentage of students who face challenges brought upon by poverty, do not have adequate resources. Fixing this dilemma will take a team effort. Parents, educators, administrators and legislators must work together to find a solution that will provide adequate resources to our most challenged students while maintaining the local control that we have grown to enjoy through the referendum process.

What are your plans to boost economic development?

JK: No single officeholder can fix economic development in Delaware, but it does take the proper mindset. I am a small-business owner, as well as a part of a multi-generational family business. I recognize the importance of small business and how to make it easier for those folks to build their business and create jobs. My opponent has a long record of adding costs and regulations to small businesses, so there is a clear choice for voters.

TP: Calling for tax cuts is a popular way for politicians to get votes, but I am not convinced that just lowering taxes will lead to the creation of more good-paying jobs. If that premise was true, our economy should already be booming because, year after year, numerous respected financial publications name Delaware as one of the states with the lowest overall tax burden.

There are four things we should be doing. First, we need to cut red tape and have a more sensible regulatory environment that protects our citizens while sending a message to entrepreneurs and businesses that Delaware is open for business. Second, we need to lower the cost of energy by encouraging the construction of more power generating facilities on the Delmarva Peninsula that are clean and efficient.

Third, we need to invest more in infrastructure like roads, bridges and broadband so that businesses can move their products to market more efficiently and information can flow faster. Fourth, we need to invest in our work force by offering more trades programs in our high schools and supporting job training programs at Delaware Technical Community College.

Justin King

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

JK: We are one of the top spending states in the country, so we don’t need additional taxes. I would not have voted for the income tax increase, the home sale tax increase or any of the other tax hikes my opponent supported. State government needs to do a better job of measuring and studying our programs for savings. Do people really think that every state government program is working and is a good value? We don’t really know now, because the state doesn’t measure their programs along those lines. I would aim to change that in the Senate.

TP: Ideally, we should be focused on building our tax base by attracting new employers and enacting policies that will help our small businesses expand, while continuing to seek efficiencies to reduce spending. I do not see a reason to increase taxes at this time. Last month, the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council projected that state government will see a $43.3 million bump in revenue this fiscal year beyond what the legislature planned for when the budget was passed in June.

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

TP: Until there is a proper field test that can determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana, I can not consider full legalization. I support medical marijuana for veterans for PTSD, among other things.

TP: I support regulating marijuana in a responsible manner like cigarettes or alcohol. Prohibition has proven to be costly and ineffective and has ruined the lives of too many young people, and marijuana is far less destructive to our society than alcohol. Marijuana prohibition clogs up our court system and jails, diverts police resources away from violent crimes and creates more crime in our streets. Proceeds from marijuana taxes could be used to support education, improve drug treatment programs and combat the opioid epidemic that is destroying our communities.

What, if any, gun laws would you change?

JK: I believe that many of the gun laws were addressed last year, including bills on mental health and school safety. I would not support any further gun laws. The Delaware Constitution is very strong and clear on the right to keep and bear arms for security and recreation. I believe people should keep the right to defend their homes with whatever currently legal firearms are available. People deserve to feel safe in their homes, and sometimes, that means keeping a rifle on hand for self-defense.

TP: I am a lifelong hunter and a responsible gun owner. I believe strongly that Delawareans have a right to own firearms to protect themselves, their families and their homes. Despite my history of standing up for the Second Amendment, I took a lot of grief from gun rights advocates for supporting the bump stock ban and legislation that raised the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21, similar to the federal law for handguns.

I also supported the Beau Biden Act, which allows police to get a court order to temporarily seize a person’s firearms if a mental health professional deems that the person is a danger to themselves or to others. In a video that my opponent posted online on April 7, 2018, he made it clear that he would have opposed all of these initiatives, stating, “by doing everything I can to block that.”

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

JK: As a former police officer, I know that we must deter criminals from committing the most serious crimes of all. And knowing what it’s like to work patrol, I will always support the death penalty for anyone who murders a first responder.

TP: We should not bring it back as it was before. Changes need to be made. I believe that it should only be applied in the most egregious of circumstances and only when overwhelming, indisputable evidence is available. It is also essential that we address the concerns that have been raised regarding racial bias and make changes where necessary.

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

JK: Health care costs are out of control. Unfortunately, most of health care is controlled at the federal level, which in my opinion has been a disaster. Anyone who buys insurance through the Obamacare exchanges knows the costs of federalized health care. We can all do a better job of looking at health care as consumers, and doing a better job of taking care of ourselves. State employees are very important. They provide services and help make Delaware a great place to live. I think the answer to our health care is more in helping state employees make better health care choices than it is in the percentage that they pay for health care.

TP: I am reluctant to support any changes to the state’s employee health care structure; however, state employees and retirees, like everyone else, need to understand that inflation takes its toll. The cost of a gallon of milk in 1985 was $2.25 per gallon. Today, it is nearly $4.00. No one can expect copays to remain the same in perpetuity. It is not sustainable.

So, as the years ago by, state workers and retirees will need to absorb some higher costs in order to keep the plan solvent. However, the state cannot shirk its responsibility to take care of those who chose to take a lower paying job with the state in exchange for better benefits later in life.

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

JK: I think prevention is a key, and when that fails, treatment options must be available for people who want to get clean. As a police officer, and as mayor, I have seen the effects of drugs on our communities. We have to have compassion for people suffering from addiction, but at the same time, we need to be firm with those who deal drugs and those who participate in drug-related crime like human trafficking. Unlike my opponent, I will never vote to shorten sentences for drug crimes.

TP: We need to be tough on the traffickers and dealers and offer more help and affordable treatment options for users who have become addicted. As a State representative, I have supported legislation to put more life-saving naloxone in the hands of first responders (SB147), to require insurance coverage for alternatives to drugs for pain relief (HB225) and to make big pharmaceutical companies pay for the drug treatment, prevention, and research necessary to stop the opioid addiction epidemic (SS1/SB147).

The Legislature must give our police departments the manpower, funding and resources they need to eradicate the dealers and the traffickers. We also need to do a better job of educating our youth on the perils of opioid addiction, and we need to bring back important after-school activities and sports programs that have slowly vanished over the years. The best way to keep kids off of drugs is to give them something to do.

Is there anything else you think is pertinent?

JK: This election is a choice. I am a small business owner, a former police officer and three-term mayor of Camden. I balanced seven straight budgets without raising taxes. My opponent raised at least four different taxes in the last two years alone.

We have worked hard in Camden to cut regulations and be welcoming to small businesses. My opponent has voted numerous times to add costs and regulations to small businesses. And I have a passion for public safety. I want to clean up our streets and put criminals in jail. My opponent has voted to reduce sentences and to allow felons the right to vote before they pay restitution to their victims. The choice is clear. For better jobs, safer streets and more money in your pocket, vote Justin King for state Senate on Nov. 6.

TP: Dover, Camden and Wyoming are diverse communities. As the state senator for the 17th district, I will protect the civil rights of all our residents, regardless of gender, race, color, religious preference, socio-economic background or sexual orientation. We must understand that we are all in this together, and denigrating the rights or degrading the opportunities afforded to certain groups of people only serves to weaken our society.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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