Lt. gov. candidate McGuiness urges focus on job creation

DEL VOTE 2Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weeklong series about the candidates running for lieutenant governor in the Sept. 13 primary.

DOVER — Kathy McGuiness entered the lieutenant governor’s race as one of the least-heralded candidates.

Four candidates seeking the office have been elected to higher positions than Ms. McGuiness, a Rehoboth Beach commissioner.

Now, after pulling in a quarter of a million dollars over the past 15 months, she has raised some eyebrows.

Kathy McGuiness

Kathy McGuiness

Ms. McGuiness, one of two Sussex Countians seeking the office in the Sept. 13 primary, will be bucking some history if she wins the seat: Five of the state’s last six lieutenant governors were from New Castle County.

Her background working in business, with nonprofits and as a public official sets her apart from the other five candidates, she declares.

In June, she unveiled a plan to create jobs. It was the result, she said, of meeting with people up and down the state.

Creative thinking is needed to grow the economy, Ms. McGuiness believes.

Her plan touches on a wide array of areas, including calling for the state to leverage its location near major cities to become a leader in cyber security. Another proximity-related factor in the outline comes from Delaware’s position by the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, enabling it to have the opportunity to start a bivalve hatchery — cleaning the waterways while raising shellfish that can be sold to restaurants.

She is also in support of further job training programs, a review of business regulations and sustained farmland preservation funding.

Other ideas revolve around higher earnings for workers.

Ms. McGuiness has proposed increasing the state minimum wage of $8.25, guaranteeing equal pay for women and making the Earned Income Tax Credit refundable.

Her jobs-centric message is resonating with voters, she said.

“When you have jobs you can provide for your family, then you have money to spend in your community,” she said. “There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment, there’s less crime.”

That plan has impressed the majority leader of the state House of Representatives. While most lawmakers who are actively supporting a candidate for lieutenant governor are backing Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, has endorsed Ms. McGuiness.

“With the current fiscal and economic challenges facing Delaware, Kathy’s background as someone who knows what it takes to foster a job-creating environment makes her uniquely qualified to be lieutenant governor,” Rep. Longhurst said in a statement. “Kathy has a plan to fight for equal pay, paid family leave and a living wage in order to eliminate the wage gap and provide working families better opportunities to balance work and home life.”

Ms. McGuiness, a native Delawarean, has owned a pharmacy and a shoe store in Rehoboth Beach. She has also been president of Rehoboth Beach Main Street, a nonprofit organization focused on promoting the seaside community. She said those experiences make her ready to fulfill the duties of the lieutenant governor’s office.

“I’ve worked on budgets for the city of Rehoboth, I’ve worked on budgets for the small businesses I’ve had and I’ve even served as treasurer on certain nonprofits over the years,” she said.

Although Ms. McGuiness has put forth ideas related to economic development, the lieutenant governor’s role in state government is limited — the duties are largely dependent on the governor and his or her willingness to delegate and work with the lieutenant governor.

Constitutionally, the officeholder’s only requirements are to succeed the governor in the unlikely event he or she is forced from office or incapacitated, preside over the Senate and chair the Board of Pardons.

Ms. McGuiness said she has attended board meetings and has been surprised by the group’s “lack of diversity,” which, she said, does not represent the makeup of the state. She suggested lawmakers amend the constitution to add a member from each county and Wilmington, although she was unsure of the best way to choose those representatives.

A five-term member of the Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners, she was registered as a Republican at one point — something, Ms. McGuiness said, she did to prove to herself she could get elected regardless of party affiliation.

She also lived in Utah for a time, voting there in 2011 and 2012, which raised questions about her eligibility to run for lieutenant governor of Delaware. Candidates for the office must have lived in the First State for the six years prior to their run.

However, the Delaware Department of Elections decided in January that since Ms. McGuiness had kept an address in Delaware and still treated that home as her official residence, she was a legal Delawarean even while she was in Utah.

As the primary draws near, she is confident her efforts to meet voters up and down the state will pay off.

“I’ve been in every county every day since last year,” she said. “I have 70,000 miles on my car and I have two shoes that are worn out to prove it.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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