Delaware Attorney General debate had its “moments”, but…

We now know more about the candidates for Delaware Attorney General. Rob Tornoe offers some thoughts. 

tornoe-16x9Here is Rob’s cartoon and commentary.

Delaware voters have three weeks until they head to the polls, and if the debate for attorney general told us anything, it’s that Lt. Gov. Matt Denn will win in a landslide. 

That’s not to say his chief opponent, Republican lawyer Ted Kittila, wasn’t qualified for the position, or didn’t have salient points to make. It’s simply that he didn’t differentiate himself enough from Denn to give Democrats in the state any reason to vote for a Republican, especially against the sitting Lt. Gov. and someone who has appeared on statewide ballots since 2004. Call it the Tom Kovach effect. 

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The two agreed on efforts to nab child porn peddlers, offered similar solutions to combating crime in Wilmington and argued the right leader as attorney general could influence law enforcement activities throughout the state. It’s really a problem with a job like attorney general, which requires candidates to say things like, “I’m against sexual assault” and “we can’t be hard enough on purveyors of child porn.”

About the only thing they disagreed on was Denn’s hope to bring together law enforcement and judges to solve the problems of sentencing and pre-trial release practices, something Kittila dubbed inappropriate. “You expect your judge to be absolutely fair,” Kittila argued. “Not to be reeducated and get on message.” 

The debate itself was non-aspirational and stuffy, and candidates focused too much on wordy, yet vague procedural initiatives. In fact, it wasn’t until a question and answer session following the debate that things got more lively. Kittila’s response to a question about pot (that front-runner Denn, who is opposed to decriminalization, seemed more than happy to avoid) included a reference to Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow.” Kittila wants the legislature to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, noting that by keeping the law as it is, it’s putting unneeded pressure on the Attorney General’s office. 

If I took one thing away from Wednesday night’s debate, it’s that Green Party candidate Catherine Damavandi is the only person running who has experience working in the Attorney General’s office. Why? Because she mentioned it before nearly every answer she gave. Damavandi reminded me of Tracy Morgan’s SNL caricature of Star Jones, continually professing “I’m a lawyer” before making any point. 

Her experience is valuable, but I agree with Kittila that she seems to look at the job from a bureaucrat’s point of view. All night she was continually telling the candidates what they can’t do, forgetting that it’s a political position with a great deal of influence on all aspects of law enforcement throughout the state. One wonders why she quit her job as Deputy Attorney General to run, considering that’s how she sees the office. 

Meanwhile, the Independent Party’s Dave Graham sounded less like a serious candidate, and more like an uncle rambling about law enforcement at the dinner table. I guess that’s what happens when you’re an accountant trying to run for a job as the state’s top cop. 

One thing Kittila is right about is the Delaware Way. I like Denn – he’s been a passionate progressive during his time in office, and I have no doubt he’d make a competent attorney general. But bailing as Lt. Gov. to fill Beau Biden’s vacated seat so the Prince of Delaware Politics can run for governor is the definition of the Delaware Way. 

Through the debate I shared some random thoughts on twitter. Here is the first of the quick sketches I did during the debate.  And that was followed by a second sketch.  Followed by a third sketch.  

Rob Tornoe appears on many newsworks pages and also appears on First. You can email him: and follow him on twitter: @robtornoe




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