Q&A Survey: Blunt Rochester, Reigle, Gesty offer details on issues

WBOC’s interviews with the candidates.

U.S. Representative

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s election, the Delaware State News has featured questionnaires from various candidates. Visit Vote 2016 for more.

Lisa Blunt Rochester, Democrat

Age: 54

Occupation: Congressional candidate, former state labor secretary and personnel director

Family: Daughter Alyssa, son Alex

vote-logo-2016Elective experience: First time running for office

Hans Reigle, Republican

Age: 52

Occupation: Served in military for 20 years, former airline captain and Delaware State University professor

Family: Married, three children

Elective experience: Served on Wyoming Town Council and as Wyoming mayor

Scott Gesty, Libertarian

Age: 46

Occupation: Financial services

Family: Wife (Maria), daughter (Virginia)

Elective experience: N/A

Mark Perri, Green

Did not return survey

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

Blunt Rochester: My first priority in Congress will be working to strengthen our economy. I’ve spent my career working to expand opportunity for everyone, whether as secretary of labor or as state personnel director. Too many people want to work but struggle to find jobs that pay them well enough to support their families. We have to do better. Whether it’s working to pass equal pay for equal work, advocating for small business tax credits or increasing career readiness in our high schools, we have to ensure we are giving all people the opportunity to lead successful, fulfilling lives. It’s also important that we continue to foster an environment that will not only inspire businesses to locate here, but that will allow them to thrive.

Lisa Blunt-Rochester

Lisa Blunt Rochester

Reigle: There are a number of significant issues for me — but two that I will focus on are the national debt, which is now almost $20 trillion and our national security. I would support legislation that reduces government spending over a 10 year period so that we stop raising the debt ceiling, which adds to the debt. In regards to our national defense — I do not believe we have shown resolve and commitment for our allies and have left the Middle East in a power vacuum. We have opened our ally Israel open to intimidation or even attack because of the Iran nuclear deal. I am the only candidate in this race that opposed that deal from the start. Also, as part of our security strategy we must secure our borders. We have no real ability to stop the flow of illegals and as a result we cannot stop bad things from coming into our country.

Gesty: We need to get our national debt under control. We need to drastically cut spending and approve a Balance Budget Amendment to the US Constitution. I will also be a staunch defender of civil liberties and personal freedom.

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

Blunt Rochester: Women in Delaware make on average 81 percent of the wages earned by their male counterparts. The gap is even wider for African American women and Latinas. Women, and their families, lose hundreds of thousands of dollars due to gender discrimination in their pay. We need more transparency in our pay and tougher laws to hold employers accountable when they pay women less. In Congress, one of my very first actions will be to work to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Given that more than 49,000 family households in Delaware are headed by women, it is imperative that we demand equal wages to give our families the support they deserve.

Hans Reigle

Hans Reigle

Reigle: The Affordable Care Act must be repaired, reformed or replaced. Almost everything the administration said about our doctors, our plans, our costs, are all not true. Pre-existing conditions and allowing a child to remain on their parent’s medical plan until age 26 are good items. However, the effects on the business community have been dramatic. Almost every ACA policy holder will see an average 32 percent increase, which means many of them will get more government subsidies. This translates into more taxpayers paying for this entitlement program. We cannot afford this program and the damage it has done to our small-business owners is almost catastrophic. It must be dramatically changed or repealed

Gesty: I would repeal the Affordable Care Act. With insurance rates increasing 22-32 percent in Delaware this year, there is nothing ‘affordable’ about this legislation. Opening the market will enhance competition, consumer choice, and bring rates down.

3. How would you work with other state officials?

Blunt Rochester: I have had the opportunity to work with many of our state officials during my time as secretary of labor, state personnel director and deputy secretary of health and social services. As a result, I already have relationships with them, but I hope to build on those relationships so we continue to serve Delawareans well.

Reigle: As mayor of Wyoming I proved that every day. It was a small town and we crossed party lines every day to improve the town’s morale, provide city services and balance the budget.

Gesty: The closer representatives are to their communities, the better the understanding of the issues and possible resolution to problems. As a federal representative, I would be very proactive in reaching out for the input of state and local legislators in addressing the concerns of the people of Delaware.

4. How would you balance party loyalty versus responding to constituents’ concerns?

Blunt Rochester: We need to return to a time when both parties work together for the common good. While I am extremely proud to be a Democrat, my first priority is serving all Delawareans. For more than 25 years my focus has always been to work with everyone toward policies that best serve all people and that’s what my focus in Congress will be.

Reigle: First and foremost, I will be a voice for all Delawareans. I am an independent person and do understand the dynamics of the party, but I belong to Delaware, not D.C. My entire campaign has been grassroots and my most of my support has come from inside Delaware. Serving Delawareans will be my number one priority.

Gesty: The Libertarian Party is not like the two major parties from a cronyism perspective. Our primary concern is protecting an individual’s personal and economic liberty. Sometimes that may put my views on legislation against that of constituents. If I don’t perform adequately in the view of the citizens I represent, they have the ability to elect someone new in the next election cycle.

5. How would you bring jobs to/create jobs in Delaware?

Blunt Rochester: Strengthening our economy and bringing jobs to Delaware requires a comprehensive strategy that includes an environment that is friendly to businesses large and small, as well as an investment in our infrastructure, a simplified tax code and a strong education system and well-trained workforce. As I’ve campaigned, I’ve heard from business leaders about how they struggle to find the skilled employees they need. So, I want to make sure we are giving individuals the training they need to succeed, whether in apprenticeship programs or in career readiness programs in high school. It’s also imperative that we do more to give small businesses a chance to succeed. That’s why I’ll work to pass small business tax credits so small businesses can get off the ground and hire new workers. We also need to invest in our infrastructure, whether it’s our roads and bridges, or our railways and port systems. I’d advocate on the federal level to secure resources as well as work with our regional partners to ensure we are creating good jobs right here at home.

Reigle: We really need to reduce the impact of regulations and corporate taxes on our business owners so they can create jobs and create wealth. Our role is to get the federal government out of the pockets of our citizens as much as possible and let the market place create the products and services. There are programs we must support, such as rebuilding our infrastructure, that can create millions of jobs and support our local economies.

Gesty: The federal government needs to roll back the aggressive regulations imposed after the financial crisis. There is no evidence that these new rules have prevented any financial wrongdoing, but the increased cost on business is well documented. These costs, as well high corporate tax rates are losing us jobs to overseas markets.

6. What, if anything, should be done to address the state of race relations in this country?

Blunt Rochester: America, despite our challenges, has always been a country where we celebrate our differences. We need leaders in Congress as well as in the Oval Office who realize that our differences are one of our greatest strengths as well as set an example and a positive tone for people across the country. An example of this is work I’ve done as Delaware state personnel director with law enforcement and civil rights organizations. We needed to first acknowledge that there was an issue. Then, we worked to bring people together and find best practices and model solutions. The challenging part is building trust and that requires transparency and accountability. The ultimate goal is finding common ground that benefits us all. I will bring that knowledge and spirit to Washington with me.

Reigle: This is one of the most difficult issues I have heard while campaigning. There are serious issues facing the minority community. We need to make sure our police have the time and resources to go into our communities and perform community policing. This builds mutual respect between police and the community. We also must hold those that willfully break the law accountable. Having a strong economy where everyone that wants to work can get a job is a good first step to building strong families and reducing racial tensions in our nation.

Gesty: The federal government can help facilitate communication between local government officials, law enforcement, civic groups, and religious organizations. Federal legislation will not help in this regard.

7. Do you support additional gun control?

Blunt Rochester: We need to come together to figure out long-term solutions to the gun violence we are facing in our country. My first priority will be to close loopholes that allow criminals to get their hands on guns too easily, increase background checks and institute a cooling off period so no one can purchase a gun without being vetted thoroughly. We also need to put more effort and resources into fixing our mental health system. Everyone deserves to live in an environment free from gun violence and we need to work together to enact smart solutions to achieve that goal.

Reigle: We do not need more gun control laws. We need to enforce the gun laws that are already in place. I do not think that taking guns from citizens who can lawfully own them will impact gun violence. The ongoing killings in Wilmington are rooted in many systemic and long term issues such as crime and joblessness. I also strongly support increased mental health services and increased communication between our law enforcement agencies to try and spot tragedies before they happen.

Gesty: No, I do not support gun control. I will not vote for any legislation that inhibits a lawful citizen’s 2nd Amendment right.

8. Should the country welcome refugees from the Middle East, mainly Syria?

Blunt Rochester: A familiar refrain from our Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These are the values our nation was built upon. These are the values that have built the fabric of our country, and these are the values upon which we will continue to grow. And while we are a country built on these principals, we need to ensure that those coming onto our shores are thoroughly vetted to ensure the safety and security of all of our citizens.

Reigle: As part of my concerns with national security and the experiences I have had as a pilot for the U.S. Air Force, this is a bad idea. It has been shown we cannot effectively vet and know who is coming to our country, where they actually come from, and their beliefs. As the son of an immigrant I do support legal immigration, but I do not want to place our citizens in danger. What is happening in Syria is horrible. We need to help. I would support safe zones and offer food and medical support as well. I would encourage our partners in the Middle East to establish camps that are free from the fighting and away from the battle zones and would enforce no fly zones to keep them safe.

Gesty: This is for the people of Delaware to decide, not the federal administration or Delaware’s governor. The state should hold a referendum to determine if the citizens wish to accept Syrian refugees or not. The final vote of the people will determine what action will be taken.

9. How should the United States combat the Islamic State and address the issues in the Middle East?

Blunt Rochester: This is incredibly complex and a paragraph will not do justice to the issue, but I can say first and foremost that our safety and security are paramount. While I’m not yet a member of Congress or a member of the intelligence community who has access to privileged information, I support working with our allies toward diplomatic solutions first. In addition, we must ensure that we are receiving the best intelligence to make sound decisions. Exacerbating the conflict is divisive rhetoric that is occurring on the national political stage. Individuals that feel excluded and on the fringes of society are being recruited. Only when we dedicate ourselves to building people up, giving them the opportunity they need to lead fulfilling, productive lives can we stop ISIL from radicalizing people and building their organization. Lastly, I do not support putting boots on the ground at this time. It is a very serious decision and we need to weigh all options before risking the lives of our soldiers.

Reigle: I have been to the Middle East and seen some very difficult situations. ISIS or ISIL is a clear and significant threat to the U.S., our allies, and to a greater extent, if it is allowed to flourish, the western world. ISIS grew out of a power vacuum. It is also a nation state without borders. It is seeking to establish its own country. The U.S. and our allies need to aggressively engage with ISIS wherever they are and be prepared to stay in this fight for a long period of time. Also, I was against the Iranian nuclear agreement. Iran is the biggest exporter of terrorism in the Middle East. We need to monitor that agreement carefully and be prepared to abrogate it if necessary.

Gesty: We need to be vigilant in gathering and monitoring intelligence information coming out of the region. A strong national defense must be maintained. I believe in peace through strength. That said, we need to reconsider our policy of policing the world. I do not believe our actions in the region the last eight years have made us safer. In fact, I believe the opposite. President Jefferson warned of getting involved in entangling alliances. The mess in the Middle East is a prime example of what happens when Jefferson’s advice is not heeded.

10. What should be done to fight the Zika virus?

Blunt Rochester: The first step is increasing awareness and access to care for those most in danger of infection. Secondly, we need to ensure that we secure the proper resources and funding for states to fight the Zika virus. As Delaware’s lone member of Congress, I’ll be a fierce advocate to ensure we receive the necessary funding.

Reigle: The initial response was much too slow. I do think the Centers for Disease Control has now taken the right steps to isolate and track where this terrible virus is located and is working to create treatments to prevent the horrible impact upon the unborn. Funding should continue and will be critical in the coming months.

Gesty: I am not a doctor or a scientist. That said, I would listen to and rely on the reports and recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

11. What should be done to combat the heroin crisis facing Delaware and the country?

Blunt Rochester: Addiction doesn’t discriminate and we have seen its impact on Delaware and our country. We have to work with our law enforcement community, the medical and provider community, as well as those who have overcome addiction or who have lost loved ones to addiction to find solutions to this crisis. Part of the challenge is being able to address the underlying issues and pain that causes individuals to self-medicate. We must also commit to identifying resources for treatment and recovery. Together, we can work to get people into rehabilitation programs and provide them with the support they need not only to overcome their addiction, but to become productive members of society.

Reigle: The impact it has had upon Delawareans cannot be overstated. There needs to be a multi-step process. First is increased border control and reduction of the flow of the drug into the U.S. Second, step up enforcement on the major dealers, drug gangs and syndicates that move and process these drugs. Finally, the state and the feds need to shift our priorities to increase our treatment programs for the people that need it.

Gesty: Drug addiction is a disease problem, not a criminal problem. Federal funds should be diverted from the DEA to state or local organizations that provide prevention and rehabilitation programs.

12. Do you support raising the minimum wage?

Blunt Rochester: No one who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty. That’s why I support increasing the federal minimum wage to give Delaware families a raise. At the same time, we must work with the business community to ensure a smooth transition.

Reigle: I do not. In virtually every conversation I have with the farming community and small-business owners, once we get past health care and the ACA, they talk about their fears of the federal government raising the minimum wage. In my estimation this actually hurts the folks that can least afford it because the business owner will simply reduce the work force to cover the increased labor costs. It will also increase automation. We are already seeing this result in the food service industry now. Most often the minimum wage is a training wage. It was never designed to be a single wage to support an entire family.

Gesty: I do not support a federal minimum wage. The federal government should not be dictating pay rates on our small businesses. Higher variable costs force employers to hire less workers, increase prices, and in the worst case scenario, go out of business. All these consequences result in higher unemployment of low skilled workers and lower tax revenues to state and local governments.

13. Do you support providing expanded assistance for women, such as equal pay, cheaper child care and maternity leave?

Blunt Rochester: Working families across the First State are staying up late, worrying about bills and expenses, trying to figure out ways to get ahead instead of just getting by. To help women and families move forward, I have proposed an eight-point economic agenda that ensures equal pay for equal work, legislation that will give up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and provide middle class and lower income tax credits to help families who are struggling to find affordable, quality child care. These are commonsense policies that can help Delaware families get ahead and benefit our economy at the same time.

Reigle: In the military pay did not apply to gender: All Air Force captains got paid the same regardless if you were a male or female. I am in complete support of equal pay for equal work.

Gesty: Unequal pay due to a person’s sex is discrimination that would be subject to federal intervention. I do not support federally subsidized child care or maternity leave. I also do not think the federal government should force businesses or individual operators to do so either. If states wish to proceed in creating such programs, they certainly have the right to do so without federal interference.

14. Anything else?

Blunt Rochester: No.

Reigle: I am in complete opposition to Delaware becoming a sanctuary state. It drains economic resources and is a security risk to our citizens.

Gesty: Regarding education, we need to get the federal government out of our classrooms. I do not support Common Core. I strongly support a parent’s right to opt their children out of Smarter Balanced Testing. I believe education decisions are best made at the local level by school boards, teachers, PTA organizations, and parents.

Note: These have been lightly edited.

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