Debate spurs lively talk about transgender issues, marijuana


PHOTOS: Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — “I’ve got a daughter and a wife, if someone walks into their bathroom, and this may be cold and hard, but if they have different plumbing? They better not be thinking about my wife and daughter,” said David Henderson, the Democratic candidate for the 34th District State Representative. “In schools, I think we’re going to have to go back to single stall bathrooms.”

Energetic discussion was spurred at the League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women hosted “candidates night” debate Wednesday night when the topic of policy surrounding transgender individual’s use of public bathrooms came up. Mr. Henderson’s opponent, 34th District’s incumbent, Lyndon Yearick, also weighed in.

“There are solutions to the issue,” said Mr. Yearick. “You go to the mall and you see family restrooms, there are common sense ways to handle this and I am against having it mandated down from the government.”

In addition to Mr. Yearick and Mr. Henderson, the two-hour, six-person debates, held at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, included candidates for the Kent County Levy Court’s 5th District Commissioner, Democratic incumbent George “Jody” Sweeney and Republican opponent John Sigler and the candidates for 14th District’s State Senator, Democratic incumbent Bruce Ennis and Republican opponent Carl Pace. Charlotte Middleton who’s running for 1st District Levy Court commissioner, Michael Routh who’s running for Register of Wills, Ruth James who’s running for the 29th District state representative and Patricia McDaniel Foltz who’s running for the 32nd state representative were all in attendance as well, but were unable to participate because their opponents were not present.

Through the use of index cards distributed to the crowd, the debate was based on questions submitted from the audience. Hot button issues like legalizing marijuana, wasteful state spending, minimum wage laws, term limits, emergency response, whether Delaware should become a sanctuary state, job growth, education reform, collective bargaining and healthcare costs were all discussed at length by the participants.

Despite a recent survey released by the University of Delaware that claimed 61 percent of Delawareans are in favor of legalizing marijuana, Mr. Ennis didn’t feel this reflected the current sentiment in his district.

“My position on legalization of it right now is not positive,” he said. “My district is very conservative. The way I read my district at this point is that they don’t support legalization of marijuana. That may change though, and I will vote with how my constituents feel.”

His opponent, Mr. Pace, was of the contrary opinion.

“I’m a realist,” said Mr. Pace. “To think that people who want to utilize marijuana currently are not is simply being deceitful to yourself. Marijuana is already here. When you do the studies on alcohol and marijuana, alcohol is a lot more dangerous, yet we are able to manage alcohol use to a point in the state already. I would be in favor of legalization of marijuana provided it was done appropriately.”

Although many questions from the audiences pertained to state policies and the senate and representative hopefuls held the floor longer, Levy Court candidates commented on issues pertinent to the county as well.

Mr. Sweeney, actually took the opportunity to talk over his opponent directly to the other candidates to urge them to refrain from passing down costs to the county. Mr. Sweeney expressed concern that while assessing the state’s finances, programs and mandates that they have traditionally been responsible for may be transferred to the county.

“Please don’t make the county Peter to your Paul, please look within to find cuts so you don’t have to push costs down to the county,” he said.

A young married couple in attendance wanted to know what the Levy Court hopefuls planned to do in order to keep Kent County an attractive place to live for younger people. On this question, Mr. Sigler noted that although the Kent County population is aging rapidly, moves should be made to serve the younger population directly.

“One of the things that we need to do is make sure we have a hold of new taxes and fees that will stand in the way of businesses coming here,” he said. “The more expensive it is to live here, the less likely young couples will do so.”

The League of Women Voters and AAUW will host their next “Candidates Night” debate at Delaware State University on Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Bank of America Building Auditorium on campus. The list of invited candidates includes those running for U.S. representative, governor of Delaware, lieutenant governor of Delaware, and Delaware insurance commissioner.

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