3 new state officials sworn in on New Year’s Day

DOVER — Three Democrats were sworn in to statewide offices on Tuesday, with Kathy McGuiness being inaugurated as auditor, Kathy Jennings taking the post of attorney general and Colleen Davis assuming the treasurer’s spot.

Each candidate garnered at least 52 percent of the vote in November, with two of the three offices open and Ms. Davis denying Republican Ken Simpler a bid for a second term as treasurer.

Ms. Jennings, who announced her candidacy after Democrat Matt Denn declared he would not run for re-election, won a four-way primary to earn the party’s nomination in September. She is the third consecutive Democratic attorney general and the second woman to hold the office.

Ms. McGuiness became the first female auditor in Delaware history, succeeding Tom Wagner, a Republican who did not seek re-election after 30 years in office.

The Democratic Party now holds all nine statewide offices, a feat believed to have last been achieved when Republicans did so in 1970.

Ms. McGuiness was sworn in at the Old State House, the original state capitol, surrounded by about 50 family members, friends and other elected officials. Ms. Davis took office at the New Castle Court House Museum, while Ms. Jennings held a private ceremony and plans to host a public event at the end of January.

“The bottom line is the voters of Delaware have entrusted me with this awesome responsibility, and I take this to heart,” Ms. McGuiness said.

“To that point, please know the expectations I have placed on myself in this office in order to serve to the best of my ability are higher than any of those that anyone could ever place on me.”

The inauguration, she noted, was held in the same place as the 1925 swearing-in of Florence Wood Hanby, the first woman elected to the Delaware General Assembly.

2018 was heralded by some as the Year of the Woman after the election results, which saw women win many seats around the country. According to the Pew Research Center, a record 127 of 535 members in the 116th Congress, which opens Thursday, will be women.

That theme exists locally too, with five of the nine statewide offices in Delaware now held by women and with the 150th General Assembly set to have three more female members when it convenes for the first time next week.

Present at Ms. McGuiness’ ceremony was former Gov. Jack Markell, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight since leaving the governor’s office in 2017. He spoke of the importance of the auditor’s office, noting the auditor serves as a fiscal watchdog for taxpayer dollars and serves on the Board of Pardons.

“Welcome to all to what I believe is one of the most important events that’s made possible by our Constitution, our history, our culture and our DNA: the peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another based on the express desire of the people,” he told attendees.

“In our system of government, the people really are in charge and the leaders who forget that do so at their own peril. Now, it may not always seem like that, but in the end the people hold the true power and elected officials are mere vessels, and it’s our job to temporarily take that power and the responsibilities entrusted to us by the people and use it to make their lives better.”

Ms. McGuiness said she intends to hire an outside firm to audit the office and hopes to improve efficiency by researching what other states do and reorganizing the office’s structure.

She thanked Mr. Wagner, who was not present, for easing the transition by naming her deputy auditor at the beginning of December.

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

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