Candidates make pitches in Lincoln

 

Photos: Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

LINCOLN — Washington D.C. and Dover are both “broken,” several political candidates told Delawareans at a forum at the Lincoln Community Center Thursday evening.

Multiple Republicans and Libertarians running for statewide offices pledged to reform government, and while the only statewide Democratic candidate present was not as pessimistic, he did swear to make government serve the people.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Colin Bonini implored the audience to vote for the GOP, cautioning that Democratic nominee John Carney, who was not in attendance, is a “nice guy” but not what the state needs.

“Delaware has to change course and I don’t think he’s going to change anything,” he said. “What I’m telling everyone is if you vote for more of the same you’re going to get more of the same.”

Painting a picture of a state beset by crime and with a failing economy — claims disputed by Democrats — he pledged to limit the state government’s reach and allow the free market to thrive.

Libertarian Sean Goward took a similar stance, saying he would change the system and defend the Constitution.

“It’s time we come together as a community and … we can’t do it looking to the government for help. We have to look for the hard answers,” he said.

“We have to do these things ourself and we need a representative in the governor’s office that is going to empower all of us to make the decisions regarding our own lives and to get the government out of the way for the sake of prosperity.”

The Republican and Libertarian nominees were also the only candidates seeking the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives who were present.

Democratic nominee Lisa Blunt Rochester could not attend because of a conflict in her schedule, and with her absent, there was little disagreement as candidates discussed taxation, military spending and unions.

Republican nominee Hans Reigle said the country is spending far too much and overburdening businesses with regulations.

“I’ve been a pilot my entire adult life, I’ve got over 12,000 flight hours and started flying when I was 18, I’m 52 now,” Mr. Reigle said. “Right now I feel like I’m just in the back of an airplane and I have no idea where this airplane’s headed. I have no idea where it’s headed.

“I feel like a passenger in the back and I’m going to do what I’ve done my whole life, which is take off the seatbelt, move out of the back seat and go to the cockpit and try to set a good course for this airplane.”

Libertarian nominee Scott Gesty, who ran unsuccessfully in 2012 and 2014, told the audience he would endeavor to eliminate the federal Department of Education, limit U.S. military involvement overseas and lower taxes.

With many people expressing unhappiness with established politicians and the two major presidential nominees, he believes the Libertarian Party has a chance to make inroads in November.

“I think that a lot of people are Libertarians. They just don’t know it,” he said.

Both men agreed the government has grown too large and influential, especially in mandating education policy to states and local districts.

In response to a question about right-to-work, Mr. Reigle said the state could entice companies to settle in the state by adopting such laws, which make union participation voluntary rather than mandatory.

Mr. Gesty was a little more lukewarm on right-to-work laws, although he noted the issue should be determined by the states, not Congress.

Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Bethany Hall-Long also did not show, giving Republican La Mar Gunn the stage to himself.

Many problems in society can be traced back to people not caring about each other and seeing others as drastically different, he said.

“Does it matter if you’re Republican or Democrat? No,” Mr. Gunn said. “We put too much on Rs and Ds and Is and Ls and every other party. What about Ps? People.”

Urging attendees to vote differently and elect a Republican lieutenant governor for the first time since 1988, Mr. Gunn pledged to create jobs and tackle the state’s heroin epidemic.

He also took a shot at his absent opponent, saying she is not focusing on important issues.

Both candidates for insurance commissioner said they would stand up to big insurance companies and protect Delawareans by fighting for lower rates.

“I got into this race to protect the consumers,” Democrat Trinidad Navarro said, telling the audience insurance companies have been “bullying” people.

“We don’t have an insurance market so that insurance companies can make money. We have an insurance market so that your life can be improved through the use of insurance,” Republican nominee Jeff Cragg said.

Several debates are scheduled in Kent County for next month.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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