Three topics take the the lead in Delaware’s governor race

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

People throughout the state of Delaware are concerned about jobs, education and crime. But who will best address those issues as the next governor?

Democrat John Carney and Republican Colin Bonini set themselves apart at Friday’s debate at Widener University’s Delaware Law School.

The candidates both shared their vision for the state during the debate sponsored by WHYY and WDEL.

“For a lot of us, Delaware is just one of the very best places to live and work and raise our families, but for too many of our neighbors, the opportunities are too few,” Carney said. The Congressman talked about growing up in Claymont and being surrounded by many who worked in the industrial complex along the Delaware River. The strong workforce in the past is something he’d like to recreate.

“Creating jobs for working families needs to be a top priority for the next governor and the next governor also needs to lead our state into an innovation economy,” he added.

Senator Bonini said that’s possible with different leadership and he pointed to a few statistics to make his case.

“Delaware needs to change course. We’ve had 24 years of the same vision,” Bonini said. “One in six Delawareans is on food stamps, one in four Delawareans, give or take is on Medicaid and one in five children in Delaware live in poverty,” Bonini added.

According to Carney, the state has a spending and revenue problem. The economy is growing at two-plus percent and the state revenue is growing at the same rate he said.

“The next governor is going to face a significant budget deficit and in my view we need to do a comprehensive review of all state operations both on the spending and on the revenue side and come up with a complete budget reset,” said Carney who believes the reset should be a revenue mix that’s pro-growth in order to deal with the fiscal imbalance.

But Bonini said he believes the problem is only with spending.

“I think the spending cuts need to come from where the spending is [Medicaid and the state employee costs] but I also think prosperity solves all of these problems. Nobody is going to be talking about a budget crunch if we had 10,000 more good paying jobs in Delaware,” Bonini said.

In regards to crime, Carney shifted his focus to the state’s largest city which he believes should be a top priority for the next governor.

“You can’t think about the success of our state without thinking about the success of our largest city. But the violence in many communities in Wilmington is terrorizing families and making it more difficult to maintain a positive business climate downtown,” Carney said.

“We need to do whatever is necessary and if that means combining police forces that means combining police forces, and if that means having the state police in there on a regular basis that means having the state police there,” Bonini said. “People are getting shot, and I think if there’s a greater failure in our political class than this I like to know what it is, and I think the governor needs to be extraordinarily active on this issue.”

The candidates also addressed education which they both say needs some attention as well.

“I think we have sustained some real improvement across the state, but the education system generally is not serving kids like we need it to and we need to make sure every child graduates from high school career or college ready,” Carney said.

“We have some great teachers and some great schools but overall I think the system is failing,” Bonini said. “The answers to school reform are with parents, teachers and principals. Those folks know what is best for those kids.” He added that if resources and funding could get down to that level then people will start to see improvement in the education system. 

Finally, the legalization of marijuana came up. Bonini supports it while Carney does not. Although Carney did support the medical marijuana enterprise in the state, which isn’t up and running yet.

The debate was ultimately a civil one. The candidates were able to show two different visions that voters will officially choose from on Tuesday, November 8th.

Tune into WHYY tonight for a special edition of First that will air the debate in its entireity at 5:00 and 11 p.m.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.