Yearick, Henderson battle for 34th Rep. District seat

DOVER — Few legislative districts in Delaware — and none in Kent County — are as incongruous as the 34th.

By party registration the Camden-area district gives a small edge of about 800 voters to the Democratic Party.

By actual results, it’s practically a Republican stronghold.

The 34th Representative District has been represented by a Republican since 1980, one of the longest current streaks in the Delaware General Assembly.

vote-logo-2016On a map the district, in a way, signals the start of Republican dominance: Every House district south of it but one belongs to the GOP.

Taking on a first-term lawmaker, Democrats are looking to change that.

In 2014, Lyndon Yearick beat officeholder Don Blakey in the primary and then won the general election. This year, his first time running as an incumbent, he’s looking to fend off Democrat David Henderson.

“I’ve been here a long time and I know that sounds like a goofy answer, but I care for the 34th District,” Mr. Henderson, 63, said.

A former state police officer, he served two terms on the Caesar Rodney School Board and believes he is “more in touch with education” than the incumbent.

Rep. Yearick, 51, ran on a platform centered around three issues in 2014: State spending, small business and accessibility.

Lyndon Yearick

Lyndon Yearick

In the past legislative session he was one of the loudest voices speaking out in favor of limiting budget expansion. He was ranked by the American Conservative Union as the second most conservative member of the House based on voting record.

Over the next two years he sees the state’s finances as the biggest issue. The council that sets the state’s revenue projection lowered its estimate in September, raising concern among some lawmakers and observers.

“We need to have adults in the room,” Rep. Yearick said. “We need to look at the entire budgeting process.”

Dave Henderson

Dave Henderson

He cited the costs of state employees’ health care and prevailing wage rates as two key issues that significantly influence the budget picture.

While a proposal by Gov. Jack Markell to lock future state employees into a Health Savings Account rather than allowing them to choose their health care plan received a cool reception from legislators and employees, ultimately going nowhere, Rep. Yearick said he fully backed the plan.
In fact, he said, he would go further and switch all current employees over to an HSA.

He suggested shifting greater costs for more expensive services, such as emergency room visits or brand-name drugs, to employees.

Rep. Yearick is also in favor of reforming prevailing wage rates, which govern what contractors are paid on state construction projects. An electrician working on highway construction funded by the state makes $65.10 an hour, for instance.

He supports basing the rates off wages calculated by the federal government from Bureau of Labor Statistics data. According to the bureau, the average Delaware electrician makes $24.56 per hour.

“The bottom line is we could build more roads, bridges, schools for the same amount of money,” Rep. Yearick said.

Mr. Henderson sees job creation and the spread of heroin as district residents’ main concerns.

He supports streamlining some regulations to help small businesses and said he is willing to support gradual minimum wage increases. Legislation to raise the state’s wage floor from $8.25 to $10.25 in four 50-cent increments failed this past year.

He takes a different view on state spending than Rep. Yearick, who voted against the budget each of the past two years.

“In regard to the budget, I’m a believer it sounds nice sometimes to vote no because you don’t like something, but I feel you have to look at the majority of the budget because there’s very few things in life that pleases people 100 percent of the time,” Mr. Henderson said.

Both men support reinstituting the death penalty for convicted killers, which the state Supreme Court struck down due to a portion of the statute in August. But Mr. Henderson is a little more cautious in his support, saying racial inequities in the system must be addressed.

“I think just, basically, all the i’s have to be dotted, the t’s crossed, because I would just take issue over (no death sentence for) some of the most egregious crimes that is not a doubt this person committed,” he said.

Rep. Yearick said he would like to see the General Assembly take a look at changing benefits offered to the poor and other needy members of society.

“Government is part of the solution, but we have to be prudent with what we’re spending and provide a hand up rather than a handout,” he said.

The election is Nov. 8.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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