Delaware Attorney General candidates trade verbal jabs at Widener law debate [video]

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

What does the attorney general do? The candidates running in November can’t agree.

The candidates for Delaware Attorney General traded verbal jabs and debated a variety of issues including community policing and the heroin epidemic in the state Wednesday night. WHYY and WDEL Radio hosted the debate at Widener University Law School in Wilmington. 

Four of the five candidates attended and outlined their plans during the debate that was missing Libertarian candidate John Machurek. Democratic candidate Matt Denn, Republican Ted Kittila, Catherine Damavandi of the Green Party, and Independent David Graham were all there and challenged each other first on community policing and violent crimes. 

Heroin and drugs

“Having worked in the Attorney General’s Office, I understand what the Attorney General’s Office can do or can’t do, Damavandi said.  What the Attorney General Office should be doing is reestablish its career criminal unit,” added Damavandi who resigned to campaign for Attorney General after14 years as a deputy attorney general. 
 
The heroin epidemic was another topic the candidates discussed.  Damavandi said the heroin problem needs to be looked at like a business, targeting dealers at the top. Kittila echoed a similar point stating that the focus should be at the kingpin level, interrupting smaller heroin networks. Graham brought up the fact that he has a family member who is trying to get off heroin and said the focus should be the addicts who need a support system.
 
Denn also weighed in on the topic.  “I think if you are serious about dealing with the drug problem in Delaware, you have to deal with the treatment side of it, and I do believe that there is a leadership role for the Attorney General to play in, organizing that effort in bringing it to fruition,” said Denn who spent more than a decade as an attorney prior to his role as Lt. Governor. 
 
Protecting children 
 
One questioned that was posed to the candidates hit the subject of child predators and the arrest of a former Delaware deputy attorney who was accused of raping a teenage boy. The candidates were asked, “how would they restore credibility” to the Office of Attorney General. 
 
“One rotten apple has the potential of destroying the bunch but I think that’s why we need a political outsider right now in there more than ever to come in and change (the office),” Attorney Kittila said. 
 
Denn pointed out he has made protecting children a top priority during his time as lieutenant governor.
 
The candidates were also asked about whether too much time was spent by the office of the current attorney general, Beau Biden,  in trying to track down and arrest people who transmit pornographic images of children.  The candidates did agree that those efforts should be maintained.  Damavandi went further to say that as technology improves it will be easier to catch those breaking the law and protecting the privacy of those who aren’t.
 
 
Different approaches 
 
If the candidates could name their campaign or have a theme as Attorney General, Damavandi said her theme would be “Equal Justice for All”.  Graham decided to name his theme as well. 
 
“My theme would be leadership and management.  The attorney general is only as good as the people that work for him,” said Graham who doesn’t have a background in law but accounting. 
 
Kittila didn’t necessarily come up with a theme but rather stressed the importance of getting the Attorney General Office to be the top law firm again and protect citizens of Delaware. Denn said his goal would be to run the office well, exercise leadership and reduce violent crimes. 
 
The debate will be shown on WHYY TV on Friday at 5 and 11pm and throughout the weekend.  The program runs one hour.  It will also be available online at www.whyy.org/first beginning Friday afternoon. 
 
Voters have three weeks until they head to the polls. Election day is November 4.  WHYY and WDEL will host a second debate among all of the candidates running for the U.S. senate.  That debate will be at 8am on Wednesday October 29th.  It will be shown on October 31st on WHYY TV.

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