Two Republicans seek party nod in key Senate race

DOVER — Democrats currently control the state Senate by the smallest of margins, holding an 11-10 edge.

They’re hoping to expand that lead in November, but Republicans are intent on flipping the chamber and taking control for the first time since 1973.

Central Kent County is expected to be a battleground, as the 17th Senatorial District is likely to be the GOP’s best chance to knock the Democrats out of power in the Senate.

On the Democratic side, Trey Paradee, who has held the 29th Representative District seat for six years, is aiming to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Brian Bushweller.

Meanwhile, Republicans Justin King and Donyale Hall are both gunning for the post which centers on Dover but also stretches down to the Camden-Wyoming area.

The two candidates will square off Thursday in the only downstate Senate primary.

Donyale Hall

Ms. Hall, who owns a general contracting business, opted to run out of a sense of frustration with what she sees as a lack of adequate representation and with a need for changes in economic development and education.

“I was tired of feeling invisible as a private citizen,” the 48-year-old candidate said. “I’ve been very vocal in the community, advocating in areas like economic development and small business.”

Mr. King, 36, is the mayor of Camden and president of several family businesses. He was elected mayor in 2014 after three years on Town Council.

“I want to take the success that we’ve built” in Camden to another level, he said.

Ms. Hall’s goals include reducing government red tape, placing more of a focus on technical education and trades for students who don’t wish to pursue careers requiring college degrees and encouraging community policing.

While schools like Polytech offer education in fields like construction, welding and culinary arts, students who are not accepted into the vocational districts may struggle to find a career path they desire, she said.

Ms. Hall also aims to make changes to welfare programs offered by the state.

“I’m concerned we incentivize people to stay stuck on public assistance and essentially punish those who are trying to move forward and punish them for making $1 over a threshold,” she said.

Mr. King has his eye on preventing increases in state spending, bolstering school safety and creating jobs. He hopes to allocate more money to schools for safety and to give veterans tax breaks for starting small businesses.

Justin King

Many business owners in the 17th Senatorial District, he said, are concerned about the minimum wage, which will increase from $8.25 to $8.75 in a month and then by another 50 cents in October 2019.

Other residents are worried about recent legislative efforts to pass stricter gun control laws, Mr. King said.

“We’re avid hunters in Kent County. We generationally just pass on hunting to our children and experience that as a sport,” he said.

Mr. King has raised about $66,200, while Ms. Hall’s contributions total just over $61,800. Each sum includes a $50,000 self-loan.

Ms. Hall, who switched to the Republican Party within the past two years after being a lifelong Democrat, described herself as a fiscal conservative who is moderate on social issues.

She said she changed her political affiliation after seriously assessing the parties’ histories and her values following a conversation with another Democrat-turned-Republican.

She believes her myriad life experiences — veteran, small-business owner, mother — make her well-suited for the General Assembly.

“I believe that I’m that candidate that will be elected into office and be able to work across the aisle and get things done,” she said.

For his part, Mr. King points to his time in office in Camden as evidence of why he is the best candidate.

“We’ve been responsible governing and I think that’s what the 17th District is looking for,” he said.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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