Carper faces off against three challengers in Delaware U.S. Senate debate

A mostly congenial discussion dominated the Tuesday night debate featuring all four candidates running for U.S. Senate in Delaware. The four candidates met at Theatre N in downtown Wilmington for the last debate before the Nov. 6 election.

Incumbent Democrat Tom Carper said his priority for a fourth term would be to reduce the impact of climate change. “The greatest challenge we face as a planet is the warming of our Earth,” Carper said. “If we’ve not come to grips with how we deal with climate change, too much carbon in the air, we are in a really bad place.”

Carper’s major party opponent, Republican Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett, said while the environment is important, his campaign has focused on improving Delaware’s economy. “What is most important for Delawareans is a good-paying job. That’s what people are more so focused on than anything else,” he said. “My focus is to find good-quality paying jobs for our families to keep them together.”

Green Party candidate Demitri Theodoropoulos said reforming the campaign finance system is the key to solving multiple problems, including climate change. “If we want to change climate change, we have to stop letting big oil own our politicians,” he said. “The root cause of our problems is the money pouring into Washington and the favors pouring out.”

For Libertarian Nadine Frost, the national debt was the top priority. “This is crushing all of us. It’s crushing those who are actively working and are not able to pay their bills because the tax requirements are so high just to keep the federal government rolling,” she said. “Politicians have never seen an expense they didn’t want to spend money on.”

Perhaps the biggest disagreement of the night centered on a hypothetical question about federal threats to Delaware’s status as corporate capital of the nation. In fiscal year 2018, Delaware collected more than $850 million in franchise taxes from companies that chose to incorporate in Delaware. The candidates were asked to name a Delaware issue on which they would differ from their party. As an example, WDEL’s Allan Loudell used the threat of a proposal from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, that would federalize that incorporation process, potentially costing Delaware millions.

Carper didn’t use the corporation tax example in his answer, instead talking about foreign trade. Arlett saw that as evidence that Carper was unwilling to criticize a fellow Democratic senator.

“The senator’s, if you would, Senate mate in his own party wants to federalize this and take away that opportunity from Delaware,” he said. “You understand what that will do to the economy in this state? Think about that. He won’t touch it, but I will, I will defend Delaware at all times.”

“Read my lips, over my dead body,” Carper said. “That ain’t going to happen.”

Carper said he successfully fought off an attempt by New York to tap into some of Delaware’s corporate income funds when he was Delaware governor. “If you think that somehow this legislation is going to move anywhere, you are mistaken,” he said.

As the debate went to closing statements, Theodoropoulos told the audience that all the candidates called for change Tuesday night. Carper offered a brief “not me” as an amendment to that thought.

The debate can be seen on WHYY-TV Sunday at 6 p.m.

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