Democrats skip NAACP debate

DOVER — All but one of the Democrats running for statewide offices chose not to attend a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People candidates’ forum Tuesday night in Dover.

Hosted by the Central Delaware NAACP and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Delaware, the event included the Republican nominees for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, state attorney general, treasurer and auditor.

The Democratic nominee for state auditor, Green nominee for treasurer and Libertarian nominee for Senate also attended, but Democrats running for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, attorney general and treasurer were absent.

With only one set of major party candidates running for the same office present, the debate mostly lacked fireworks.

Auditor hopefuls Republican James Spadola and Democrat Kathy McGuiness butted heads over campaign contributions and independence, prompted by Mr. Spadola going after his opponent for accepting donations from several elected officials, including Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro.

“I’m also not taking donations from the same department heads I’m supposed to hold accountable, which is a violation of government auditing standards in the first place,” Mr. Spadola said.

Four candidates from left, Republicans: Rob Arlett running for US Senate, Bernard Pepukay, candidate for Attorney General, Ken Simpler,State Treasurer seeking re-election, and James Spadola, nominee for auditor. Their Democratic opponents did not show up during the NAACP debate in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Ms. McGuiness defended herself and shot back that Mr. Spadola, who was named deputy auditor last week, had been “handed a political appointment less than three weeks before the election.”

“I find it insulting that my opponent believes my integrity would be compromised or bought over one donation,” the Democrat said.

Referring to Mr. Spadola as “dear opponent,” she noted he has also received contributions from a few lawmakers.

While Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat seeking a fourth term, was not present to defend himself, Rob Arlett was very critical of him on several occasions: In addition to calling him in the pocket of “Big Pharma,” he accused Sen. Carper of accomplishing nothing of note over the past 18 years.

“Nobody knows what he’s done as a U.S. senator,” the Republican nominee told the audience. “The reality is he focuses on his party, he focuses on padding his own pockets and he’s partisan.”

Sen. Carper’s absence irked moderator La Mar Gunn, who urged voters to remember “the people who ignore our concerns.”

Several candidates endorsed putting financial education courses in schools and agreed a controversial (and now withdrawn) regulation that would have potentially allowed students to self-identify as a different gender or race without parental consent was government overreach.

Bernard Pepukayi, who is running for attorney general, said he intends to focus on reducing the prison population by changing laws and practices to send fewer people there in the first place.

“I think the Delaware criminal justice system does not work and has gotten increasingly worse over the years,” said Mr. Pepukayi, who has highlighted his background as a former felon who turned his life around.

The Republican nominee for the House delivered the understatement of the night, saying he has had “what people consider a rather strange candidacy.” That nominee, Scott Walker, has been disavowed by his own party, accused prominent Delaware Republican officials of being incompetent and been criticized for, among other things, livestreaming an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and “fat-shaming.”


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