Forum spurs lively talk on gender issues, marijuana

DOVER — Though a mostly cordial debate, the issues of cannabis legalization and primary school-aged childrens’ ability to determine their own genders were the two to arouse the most passion from candidates in the League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women-hosted forum for county and legislature candidates Wednesday.

The two-hour, seven-person debate, held at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, included candidates for the 34th Representative District, 31st Representative District and the candidates for the Kent County Recorder of Deeds.

Through the use of index cards distributed to the crowd, the debate was based on questions submitted from the audience.

Modest debate was spurred between state-level candidates on the topics of the economy and job creation, state regulations, pensions for retired state workers and Delaware’s status as a sanctuary state, but candidates exchanged a few barbs when the question

“Do you support children in primary school choosing their own gender without parental approval?” was asked.

Republican incumbent for the 34th Representative District, Lyndon Yearick, was resolute in his opposition to the idea.

Kent County Recorder of Deeds candidates Betty Lou McKenna and Eugenia Thornton.

“Regulation 225, which would allow individuals in a K-12 system to have the opportunity to work with school staff — it was never clearly defined who that would be — to choose to identify as either a boy, girl of particular race without having to inform their parent would be a terrible choice for our schools,” he said.

Rep. Yearick believes that a school withholding information of this sensitive nature from parents could expose them to liability.

Republican Dover Councilman David Anderson, who’s running for the 31st Representative District, voiced his strong agreement.

“I think they have lost their minds with this idea,” he said. ” It’s the most absurd idea to say that we are going to let children have one identity at home and one at school and never the twain meet. According to pediatricians and experts, this is a form of child abuse. I believe in parental rights.”

Rep. Sean Lynn, Democrat incumbent for the 31st District, agreed that young children should likely be excluded from the regulation.

“I support programs that would allow children to come to grips with either questions about their sexuality or questions about their gender at an appropriate age, but regulation 225 as drafted is problematic,” he said. “I don’t believe that children in elementary school have the capacity at that juncture in their life to make groundbreaking decisions about their gender. Certainly children in High School are grappling with those questions though and should have the ability to explore that separate from some households that just wont allow them to do that.”

Agreeing, William McVay, a Libertarian running for the 34th district, said both parental right and the student’s rights should be acknowledged.

“I agree with the importance of parental rights,” he said. “Some students are coming from homes where abuse may be threatened if they identified as transgender and there needs to be a process for that.”

Adewunmi Kuforiji, a Democrat running in the 34th district, also agreed.

“Children at a certain age have the ability to make certain decisions, but I don’t think parents should be left out of those extremely important life decisions,” he said. “I don’t see allowing young children to make those decisions that early in their lives.”

On the issue of cannabis legalization, there appeared to be a consensus in favor of it among the candidates with the exception of Rep. Yearick.

“I oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana for a variety of reasons,” he said. “One, if we learn from what Colorado has learned from their five years of legalization, their criminal market still exists, underage consumption is the highest of any state and the increase in pedestrian accidents and school truancy are issues. I looked at the pros and cons, and I disagree with and oppose it.”

Several candidates refuted the conclusions drawn from data collected from Colorado. Rep. Lynn strongly signaled his support and called Delaware’s current laws “a disaster.”

“The answer is yes: 100 percent I support legalization of marijuana,” he said.

The race for Recorder of Deeds between incumbent Democrat Betty Lou McKenna and Republican Eugenia Thornton notably took a back seat during the debates — only fielding two questions.

When the race was finally acknowledged, the office itself took a beating. The first question asked how many hours a Recorder of Deeds was expected to work per week and the second questioned the need for the office entirely. Ms. McKenna defended the importance of the office historically and for the revenue it generates for the county.

Ms. Thornton expressed interest in the idea of combining it with other row offices for efficiency’s sake if elected.

Though Rep. Charles Paradee III, a Democrat running for the 17th State Senate district was in attendance, he was unable to participate in the debate because his opponent, Camden Mayor Justin King did not attend the event. Neither candidate for Kent County Sheriff attended the event either.

The League of Women Voters next candidate forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 in the Bank of America Building Auditorium at Delaware State University. The event will include state and national office candidates.

 

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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