Dorsey Walker preaches justice reform, community engagement

Delaware Vote logoEditor’s Note: This is the sixth and final part of a series about the candidates for lieutenant governor in the Sept. 13 primary

DOVER — Sherry Dorsey Walker is gambling her political future on a crowded Democratic primary.

Ms. Dorsey Walker, one of six Democrats running for lieutenant governor, is giving up her Wilmington City Council seat to seek the office.

She is running, she said, because she has exhausted the possibilities offered by city council and wants to serve Delawareans in a larger way.

Sherry Dorsey Walker

Sherry Dorsey Walker

“We do need people who haven’t compromised their integrity in office, people who will not take special interests’ money and people who will do what the people want on their behalf,” she said.

Elected to city council in 2012, she ran for the state Senate in 2014, losing to longtime Sen. Robert Marshall by just 37 votes in a primary. As she campaigns for office this year, she is calling for allocating more funding to schools in low-income areas, creating more apprenticeship training and expanding re-entry programs for ex-inmates.

Much of her focus lies on social justice issues, particularly the death penalty. She was a spokeswoman for Delaware Repeal, a group that advocated for abolishing capital punishment, and has spoken out against legislation that sends Delawareans from “the schoolhouse to the jailhouse.”

The state, she said, needs to develop job training programs, giving former offenders skills they can use to find a job and thus become less likely to re-offend. Some research shows such programs help prevent recidivism.

Ms. Dorsey Walker believes she would be an asset to Delawareans by serving on the Board of Pardons, which the lieutenant governor chairs.

“You’ll finally have someone on the Board of Pardons who gets it and will be willing to work with the individuals,” she said.

She also supports changing the training given to law enforcement, making her the only candidate to take that outspoken stance. The nation has seen several high-profile cases of police violence and misconduct in recent months, creating tensions between law enforcement and many communities. As a result, Ms. Dorsey Walker believes a change in tactics and attitude is overdue.

While she noted she is unaware of what police training entails, Ms. Dorsey Walker said adopting different methods could lessen the number of incidents and improve the relationship between civilians and law enforcement.

“So often our society is blaming the police” for following their training, she said, adding she is thankful for the work officers do.

Ms. Dorsey Walker, who would be the first black woman elected statewide in Delaware and its first African-American lieutenant governor, believes she has a strong connection with the public. Too many officials, she said, are reluctant to visit communities and personally speak to residents to hear their concerns.

“I walk the streets of Wilmington, I’m not afraid to walk the streets of Dover,” the native Delawarean said.

She is a fierce opponent of the death penalty, a principle that led to a few sparks at a debate earlier this month. Ms. Dorsey Walker criticized fellow candidate Bethany Hall-Long for voting twice against repealing the death penalty and later changing her stance.

She reiterated that Friday in an interview, saying the state needs elected officials “who won’t say one thing one day and one thing another day,” although she did not mention her opponent by name.

Her debate comments marked a departure from the general tenor of the race, which has been amicable with few direct disagreements between the six candidates — a tone Ms. Dorsey Walker said she appreciated.

Her campaigning has been primarily a grassroots one focused on door-knocking and community events in all three counties, she said, characterizing the public response as “overwhelming.”

She received $22,000 in donations through the first eight-and-a-half months of 2016, behind three other lieutenant governor candidates. She is critical of the influence of money in politics and said Friday a lack of money does not limit candidates from meeting and greeting voters.
As lieutenant governor, she said, she would be a “bridge” between the governor and the Legislature.

“For me, it’s not about power, privilege and prestige, it’s about the most important p, and that’s the people,” she said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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