Lafferty promises change for state in her race for governor


GOP candidate Lacey Lafferty greets would-be voters during this year’s Dover Days Festival parade. (Delaware State News file)

GOP candidate Lacey Lafferty greets would-be voters during this year’s Dover Days Festival parade. (Delaware State News file)

DOVER — Not since Russell Peterson in 1968 has Delaware chosen a governor with no prior elective experience. But in a year where a man never before elected to public office is a major-party nominee for president, one Delawarean thinks she can break that 48-year streak.

Republican Lacey Lafferty, who has never sought political office before, has been running for the state’s top job almost as soon as the last gubernatorial election ended in 2012.

Americans are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” she said, describing herself as the kind of hardworking political newcomer who can reform government.

A staunch opponent of Democratic policies she describes as harmful, Ms. Lafferty has a clock on her website counting down the days until Gov. Jack Markell and President Barack Obama leave office.

With unyielding confidence, she wants to create opportunities she said have vanished in recent decades.

“I love Delaware. I want Delaware to be the state that I once grew up in,” she said.

Ms. Lafferty, who referred to the state’s current situation as a “train wreck,” has pledged to “restore and repair Delaware back to its First State status for our children and our grandchildren.”

That encompasses many areas: crime, education, the economy.

Ms. Lafferty supports more “proactive” policing, a less centralized education system and lower taxes.

As governor, she would aim to shrink the Department of Education, reduce the number of tests given to students and move away from Common Core Standards.

She is in favor of promoting technical schools as a viable alternative to college, something she feels has not been done well recently in Delaware.

“Not everybody’s college material,” Ms. Lafferty said, noting she went tech school.

She believes schools needs to place greater emphasis on preparing students to enter the workforce, and parents, not bureaucrats, should be responsible for disciplining children.

Part of the solution, she said, could come from giving more authority to guidance counselors.

“Schooling is to teach children how to get prepare for the job market, and this is where we’ve lost our way,” she said. “Now it’s turned into a nanny school system. It’s more like day care for students.”

A strong believer that the state needs to become more business friendly, Ms. Lafferty promotes lowering tax rates. She opposes a minimum wage hike, which she said would drive the price of goods and services up.

With revenues from unclaimed property and slots facing uncertainty, the state has potential budget crunches waiting in future years, a problem Ms. Lafferty believes can be addressed by giving more support to small businesses.

“Let’s help them create that job, and that’s the basis of my political beliefs,” she said.

She is confident bolstering employment would help reduce crime as well, with fewer desperate people forced to turn to illegal activities to make money.

A former state trooper, she supports the death penalty and opposes additional gun control.

For Ms. Lafferty, the culmination of more than three-and-a-half years of attending community events and talking to Delawareans up and down the state is drawing near.

She faces state Sen. Colin Bonini in a Sept. 13 primary, and, if she wins, will take on Democratic U.S. Rep. John Carney in the general election.

Sen. Bonini is the choice of the establishment, but Ms. Lafferty believes she will win.

She’s been critical of her primary opponent, referring to him on Twitter as “lazy” and a “buffoon.” Sen. Bonini represents part of a failed political culture, Ms. Lafferty said, noting he did not officially unveil his campaign until recently.

“This is what people are sick of,” she said. “They’re tired of this. They want somebody that they can depend upon.”

Sen. Bonini has referred to her as a “fringe candidate,” and more recently, he stressed Republican voters should select the person with “the best chance to win in November.”

As of Aug. 14, he had about $66,000 on hand, while Ms. Lafferty had $4,400.

Delaware State University professor Sam Hoff foresees Ms. Lafferty pulling in about 15 percent of the primary vote, largely from more left-leaning Republicans.

Though Democrats outnumber Republicans 319,000-188,000 in Delaware, Ms. Lafferty believes a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the political culture, a sense that has manifested itself nationwide, will bring her a victory.

“Just because they have more electoral registration doesn’t necessarily mean this electoral registration is going to vote” for Rep. Carney, she said.

Ms. Lafferty said she has received good feedback from voters, including Democrats who have switched their affiliation to vote for her.

While she is now an impassioned critic of the Democratic Party, she’s a former Democrat who crossed party lines to vote for President Ronald Reagan twice.

“You’re either a liberal or a conservative and the vast majority of people in this state … the conservative base is more popular than the liberal base,” she said.

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