Debate features some criticisms but little new discussion

DOVER  — With less than two weeks to go until the general election, candidates for statewide offices took a few shots at one another Wednesday night.

All the hopefuls running for the Senate, attorney general, treasurer and auditor were present at a debate hosted by Delaware State University and the League of Women Voters, meaning there wasn’t time for any one person to stand out too much, but each attendee did get several chances to speak. To those who have been closely following the races, little was shared that has not already been said by candidates,

Republican Senate nominee Rob Arlett urged voters to pick change, accusing Sen. Tom Carper of being part of the problem, while the two nominees for auditor criticized each other over independence and principles (or lack thereof).

Colleen Davis, the Democratic nominee for treasurer, accused Treasurer Ken Simpler of being aloof and contracting out the duties of the office, and Republican attorney general nominee Bernard Pepukayi sought to paint Democrat Kathy Jennings as a hypocrite who failed to affect real change when she had the chance.

Mr. Simpler, a Republican elected in 2014, has highlighted his background working in finance, while Ms. Davis has claimed he does not represent the common people of Delaware and is wasting taxpayer funds on consultants.

“I think it’s important that we fulfill the promises that we’ve made and that when you hire someone who is making a salary they actually show up and do the job rather than farming it out to others,” she said.

In response to her claim that financial facts and figures are not being shared as required by law, Mr. Simpler fired back that the information is available online and disseminated at meetings.

“There’s a lot of Pinocchios here we have to dispense with,” he told the audience of more than 100.

Green Party nominee David Chandler spoke mostly of using the powers of the officeholder as a member of the Board of Pardons to reduce the state’s prison population.

Republican Rob Arlett and Democrat Tom Carper, candidates for US Senate.

On immigration, Mr. Arlett stood out from the Democratic, Libertarian and Green candidates, speaking of a compassionate but firm approach.

“There are American citizens who are not getting work today because there are illegals, undocumented immigrants, who are,” said Mr. Arlett, who has been supportive of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration.

Sen. Carper said officials need to focus more on the “root cause” driving millions from Central America to flee to the United States.

“We are complicit in their misery,” he said. “Our addiction to drugs in this country creates hell for people in Honduras, Guatemela, El Salvador.”

Libertarian Nadine Frost agreed, saying the nation is built on immigration and the current laws make it too difficult for people to legally come here. Green Demitri Theodoropoulos sounded a similar note, speaking in favor of allowing the 700,000 or so participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a policy started under President Barack Obama that enabled some people who came to the United States as children to remain here, to become citizens.

In response to a comment from Mr. Arlett that Congress was failing to do its job on immigration, Sen. Carper said Republicans are refusing to compromise. President Trump is not helping the situation, he said, noting the president on Tuesday claimed a group of thousands of Central Americans traveling north to the United States was “funded by the Democratic Party.”

Ms. Jennings, the former chief prosecutor and deputy attorney general in the Delaware Department of Justice, again committed publicly to opposing re-institution of the death penalty. The state’s capital punishment statute was struck down by the Delaware Supreme Court two years ago, and legislation to create a new law failed to pass the General Assembly this past session.

Ms. Jennings said when she announced her candidacy in January she would seek to use the death penalty “for the worst crimes imaginable” and has acknowledged she has evolved on the issue.

Her comment on opposing the death penalty prompted a response from her opponent.

“It’s a consistency issue,” Mr. Pepukayi said. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t believe in one thing or say something publicly one way and (have) your actions dictate a total opposite way for years, years and more years.”

For her part, Ms. Jennings pointed to her experience and pledged to protect the environment from the Trump administration and provide more services for youths when they are first arrested.

Both candidates have supported reducing the prison population.

Although Delawareans will also be able to vote for a U.S. representative on Nov. 6, no one from that race spoke Wednesday. Because Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester was unable to make the event, the League of Women Voters was required by federal law to not allow Republican nominee Scott Walker to speak.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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