Q&A: Candidates for lieutenant governor address the issues

Lieutenant governor

In the leadup to Nov. 8’s election, the Delaware State News will be running questionnaires from various candidates. If you’ve missed any, visit https://delawarestatenews.net/ and click on the “vote 2016” tab.

Bethany Hall-Long, Democrat

Office seeking: Lt. governor

Age: 52

Occupation: Nurse, University of Delaware professor of nursing, state senator

Family: Husband Dana, son Brock

Elective experience: Six years as a state representative and eight years as a state senator

La Mar Gunn, Republican

Office seeking: Lt. governor

Age: 43

Occupation: CEO/Financial adviser

Family: Married with five children

Elective experience: Unsuccessful contested bid for Kent County recorder of deed


1. What would be your top priority in this office?

Hall-Long: Delaware is facing a serious epidemic with heroin addiction. This is an epidemic that is driving up crime, creating higher health costs and taking the lives of our loved ones far too soon. As a public health nurse, I know the foundation to treating this epidemic is understanding that addiction is a disease. We must seek to help those addicted with treatment and not incarceration. We have to fight the push to punish addicts with incarceration, and instead expand their access to treatment. While we have made progress in Delaware, there is still much to do. Working with our next governor, I will make Delaware a healthier and stronger state by keeping up the fight to expand treatment opportunities and provide additional resources for our loved ones and neighbors who are confronting the challenges of substance abuse and mental illness.

Gunn: I would work to attract high quality, career-building livable-wage jobs to stabilize and sustain Delaware’s economy.

2. If you could change one state policy or law, what would it be?

Hall-Long: In order to achieve a stronger, healthier Delaware, we must ensure that we have a health care system that works for everyone. One of the priorities of my four-point health plan is bringing better access to healthcare into our lowest income communities. The zip code where someone lives and the color of their skin should not be a predictor of life expectancy or whether they will die of chronic disease. By deploying community health care workers to our most underserved areas, we can improve healthcare outcomes, and decrease healthcare costs across the state.

Gunn: I would evoke term limits for all elected officials and duplicity in office (holding two offices while running for one) to ensure diversity in thought, leadership and governance.

3. What is the top issue facing the state?

Hall-Long: As a nurse, I know that Delaware is facing serious public health challenges. From rising obesity rates, to the lack of quality healthcare in our lowest income communities, we have lot of work to do to make Delaware a stronger, healthier state. However, I believe the number one issue facing our state right now is the drug epidemic occurring across our state. Over 82 percent of our inmates have a substance abuse issue or a mental illness. It is clear that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We must find ways to treat those struggling, and have better methods of prevention so that we can stop people from going down that path before it happens. In turn, we will save on long-term healthcare costs, and see a drop in crime.

Gunn: Economic stabilization and sustainability including job creation and the reduction of taxes to Delaware citizens and businesses.

4. What is the most important duty of the lieutenant governor?

Hall-Long: The constitutional duties of the lieutenant governor include chairing the Board of Pardons and presiding over the state Senate. The lieutenant governor would also fill in for the governor should a vacancy occur during his or her term. Of those duties, chairing the board of pardons is critically important, as the lieutenant governor has the opportunity to vote on whether those who have applied will receive a pardon or sentence commutation. This responsibility requires someone with an understanding of the criminal justice system and experience in diverse communities across the state. My work as a nurse has brought be into prisons and treatment facilities where I have had the opportunity to work with individuals from all backgrounds. This experience has prepared me to fulfil the duties of lieutenant governor on day one.

Gunn: As lieutenant governor, the second highest elected official in the state, all issues that are important to Delawareans are important to me. Presiding over the General Assembly and the Pardon Board as part of criminal justice reform are equitably important.

5. How would you work with the governor?

Hall-Long: Having worked with the past two governors in my role as a legislator over the last 15 years, I feel ready to do the same as our next lieutenant governor on day one. With an evolving economy, major public health issues and the need to improve our education system, Delaware is facing unprecedented challenges. I know how great our state can be, and I know that we are stronger working together. My background and experience as a mom nurse, and senator will allow me to be a strong ally to the next Governor in tackling the most pressing issues facing our state.

Gunn: The lieutenant governor is also an important independent leader in state government. I would unconditionally use my business and life experiences to work closely with the governor to meet the needs of all Delawareans, stimulate economic growth to build a stronger, sustainable economy, protect and grow the state’s interest.

6. How would you work to create jobs?

Hall-Long: As a member of the Bond Bill Committee, I have seen Delaware’s economy change considerably over the last decade. Between a merged Dupont and less manufacturing jobs, we have an economy that looks drastically different than one we knew decades ago. Our new economy is an innovation economy, one that has seen several recent start-ups and STEM jobs. While we have made progress in this arena, there is still more to do to build Delaware’s innovation economy. Working with our next governor, we can create a state government that is more entrepreneurial and proactive towards businesses so that they can grow and create more jobs. We must also expand our homegrown workforce pipeline. Delaware’s best investment is in its people, and at this very moment, the next generation of workers and innovators are in our classrooms, which is why we should strengthen ties between our vo-tech system, higher education and the business community. We can attract more business to Delaware if we maintain a world-class workforce.

Gunn: I believe employment is the great equalizer.As a commerce advocate, I would serve as the state’s first “jobs ambassador” and work unceasingly to attract profitable business and trade entities that have jobs with a livable wage to Delaware. Delaware has a great deal to offer with friendly corporate tax laws and business environment. I would work with our economic development stakeholders, employers, business leaders, commerce chambers, labor and economic entities local and internationally on retrofitting old manufacturing sites such as the GM plant with the Tesla Motor Company as well as explore new opportunities needed in today’s markets such as renewable energy options in the production of solar panels through the Solar City Company in Seaford. I would work with our educational systems; schools, state universities and again Labor Department to ensure we have a workforce that is prepared to take these jobs. My vision and hope is that if they choose there will opportunities for Delawareans to be able to work in their home state.

7. Does the state spend too much, too little or the right amount?

Hall-Long: As elected officials, we must continuously analyze our state’s finances and look for ways to be more efficient and save money. While we must ensure that we have the capital to pay our police officers, teachers, and fund important infrastructure projects, I believe there are ways we could look at saving costs in specific areas like healthcare by investing in a more preventive healthcare model that would save healthcare costs in the long-term.

Gunn: I would say we do spend too much as fiscal decisions are often rooted in political bias and favoritism. I’m just not sure we are doing all we can to assess our spending and get the best answers we need to inform decision making. Our fiscal integrity and routine business practice should include ongoing reviews to detect and eliminate overspending, waste, duplication and non efficiencies in the state. If we don’t do this we leave money on the table that could be reinvested in Delawareans.

8. What should be done, if anything, to increase revenue for the state or cut spending?

Hall-Long: As a nurse, I know that many of our costs are in healthcare. In August, I released a four-point health plan that would lower state healthcare costs by investing in a more preventive health care model as opposed to treating issues as they arise. For every $1 spent on preventing chronic disease and other public health issues, $7 is saved in the long run. This would enable Delaware to use more funds to improve our education system and invest in our economy bringing more jobs to Delaware.

Gunn: Bringing more jobs to the state would directly increase revenue. When we work we invest in the economy, we rent and buy homes, we buy goods and services, we give back charitably to help each other and more. Everyone benefits when we work. Another significant way to increase revenue would be to force the banks to pay transfer fees to the state for loans made. This is a requirement and loss revenue as Delaware currently does not enforce this.

9. Anything else?

Hall-Long: No.

Gunn: Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. I think I am a uniquely qualified candidate for the office of lieutenant governor. I personally know and value hard work as a 20 year business owner that helps people realize their life goals and as a proven civil rights leader serving as president of the Central Delaware NAACP in Dover. While this experience has been a challenging one, the rewards — being with and meeting people across the state, learning more about what matters to them — far outweigh the bad and has enriched my life. I’m grateful and I love my state. I believe in Delaware and most importantly I believe in its greatest resource: its people. If elected, I promise to give 100 percent to improving the quality of life for everyone.

Note: These have been lightly edited.

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