Delaware gubernatorial debate highlights differences in economic outlook, same sex marriage, education

In a matter of 90 minutes, Gov. Jack Markell (D-Del.), Republican Jeffrey Cragg and Green party candidate Mark Perri squared off at Tuesday’s Gubernatorial debate at Widener University in Wilmington. There were a variety of questions asked.  Here’s a portion of some the candidates responses. 

At 8 a.m. sharp, the debate on some of Delaware issues began but before then, the candidates started with opening statements, that gave the audience sort of an idea of what they all stand for.

“I think this election is about really one issue, it’s about jobs and about the economy. Here in Delaware we have over 30-thousand neighbors and friends who are unemployed, it’s an unacceptable number and I think we’ve had an inadequate response on this part of the state to putting people back to work,” said Republican candidate Jefrey Cragg.

Next up was Green party candidate Mark Perri. Just before the debate, the candidates picked numbers one through three to decide which order the speakers would go in. 

“Climate change is already killing 400-thousand people a year and costing us 1.2-trillion dollars a year, we know our climate is broken.  Our economy is based on burning fossil fuel and the problem is that’s killing the planet. Climate change is the most urgent and important issue confronting us,” said Perri.

The Governor went last.  “I’m proud how we pulled together these last four years. We’ve shown we really are a state of neighbors working together. We are reopening shuttered plants, we are putting people back to work and once again we are making Delaware a choice location for businesses to locate and to expand,” Markell said.

After opening statements, that’s when the questions began. Amy Cherry of WDEL asked the first one.

QUESTION #1: WHAT’S THE TIMETABLE FOR THE LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE IN DELAWARE? AND WOULD YOU SUPPORT IT?

Jeffrey Cragg (R): “I would not support the legalization of gay marriage. I think it’s a question of religious freedom. I am supportive of marriage between a man and a woman and supportive of the civil union laws passed. I think we are in a good place as we stand now.”

Mark Perri (G): “What is the schedule? I dont know, it should have happened yesterday.  I’m in fiull favor of gay marriage.”

Gov. Jack Markell: “I think we’ll work with the folks in the General Assembly, we’ll work with some of the advocates and I think it’s certainly possible that it could happen this year. I think it will happen soon.”

After a number of follow-up questions regarding gay marriage. The next one focused on jobs.

QUESTION: WHAT’S THE PLAN TO CREATE MORE JOBS AND LOWER UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN THE NEXT 24 MONTHS?

Jeffrey Cragg (R): “I think the focus has to be on small employers, there’s 26-thousand small employers in the state of Delaware, there’s about 30-thousand people looking for work, if we can roll back regulation on some of these small employers, if we can have tax policy that is something small employers can figure out what their taxes are going to be going for, if they can figure out the rules and regulations are going to be, those folks can add jobs and we can cut into that unemployment dramatically.”

Mark Perri (G): “Small business is great but they are not going to provide the kinds of jobs I think that we need.”

Gov. Jack Markell: “When J.P Morgan Chase adds 1200 jobs or when Capital One adds 500 jobs, the impact on the real estate business, the impact on restaurants, the impact on so many other small businesses is huge, so the real objective here ought to be and is to make sure we got a thriving business environment for small, medium and large size businesses.”

The rest of the questions are summarized but addressed other issues.

QUESTION: SHOULD THE STATE STEP IN TO HELP THE CITY OF WILMINGTON FIGHT ITS ALARMING CRIME RATE? WHY OR WHY NOT?

Jeffrey Cragg: “We need a statewide response, it’s time for us to treat Wilmington like we treat all the other communities in the state of Delaware and put resources in there including the State police to move forward and provide a safe envirnomment for the citizens of Wilmington.”

Mark Perri: “Crime is a problem but I dont think bringing the State police is really the answer.”

Jack Markell: “We’ve really been working to heighten the community police presence and target enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders, so specifically our Operation Pressure Point has had State troopers work with Wilmington police in various parts of the city and I can tell you when I visited East 24th Street or 10th and Pine where a young man was shot a couple months ago, those folks were appreciative of having the troopers out.”

QUESTION: WHEN RACE TO TOP MONEY RUNS OUT, WHAT WILL BE DONE TO IMPROVE EDUCATION?

Jeffrey Cragg (R): “The Race to the Top money I’m concerned about is the general approach because of the 25 million dollars we got each year to apply to the Race to the Top. 13.8-million of that is stuck in Dover and didn’t get in the classroom, I don’t think it was effectively applied.”

Gov. Jack Markell: “First of all, we are making great strides.  Last year 10-thousand more students are proficient in reading then the previous year, 9 more thousand are profcient in math. And Mr. Cragg complaining about Race to the Top and results from last year …but last year was the first full year of implementation of Race to the Top, so we are already seeing a significant impact in one year.”

Mark Perri (G):  “I’m a product of the Delaware schools, my son is and I think they are hugely underrated …they are great and I think that’s because the teachers have been able to maintain their good pratices and good principles and they know what they are doing.”

QUESTION: DO STATE WORKERS DESERVE TO BE PAID MORE?

Gov. Jack Markell: “The state goverment workers in Delaware continue to do more with less and that’s a combination of two things during these times of economic challenge….demand for services has increased as the revenues available have grown and we had to reduced the head count in state government. We have not done it through layoffs but we’ve done it through attrition.”

At this time, Cragg took this time to shift the focus to union groups.

Jeff Cragg (R): “Here in Delaware, state employees are forced to payoff union bosses for the right to work all while those union bosses take that money and funnel it to the Democratic party. I think compulsory labor laws are immoral and should be illegal …if a municipal employee wants to not be a member of a union they should have that choice.”

Mark Perri (G): “I’m pro-union, I think you are combining a couple of issues when it comes to the democrats.  Corruption is bad… By the way 8-percent of the state employees qualify for public assistance but I dont know if that’s because they are paying union dues.”

All three candidates were given the same amount of time to answer questions as well as the closing statements where the men had one last chance to convince the audience.

“I think this debate was a fine example of exactly where Governor Markell and I differ on the issues. I think the key point is where his heart is in the right place, the policies don’t bare out what he often says,” said Cragg.

“No matter who wins the election in November, the price of oil will still mostly be set by other countries and if we really want to protect ourselves from high gas prices we have only one effective policy, extreme energy effiency.Republicans are in the pockets of the dying fossil fuel industry and the Democrats are afraid of them so we can’t expect their leadership,” added Perri.

The Governor closed the debate and reminded voters to remember him on election day.  “We’ve had tough choices to make over these last four years,we’ve made decisions that we believe were right for Delaware even when they were unpopular and we acted as if our very future was at stake because it is, and I’m proud of what we accomplished these last four years together, we’re moving forward,” Markell said. 

WHYY-TV will air Tuesday’s debate on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and again at 11 p.m. 

 

 

 

 

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