Cape Gazette
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Politics

6th Senate District candidates hear voters' concerns

By Don Flood | Mar 20, 2012

Name recognition is always among a new politician’s first challenges.

But Ernesto Lopez, who was participating in Milton’s recent St. Patrick’s Day Parade with about 20 of his volunteers, noticed a more basic problem. “People were asking, ‘What seat are you running for?’” Lopez said.

For good reason. The seat for which Lopez is competing - the 6th Senatorial District seat - is new for Sussex County.

Along with the equally new 20th Representative District, it was created after the 2010 census reflected an increase in Sussex County’s population.

Once people understood that, according to Lopez, they were happy. “The whole idea of more representation, especially in the General Assembly, is exciting.”

New Castle’s loss is Sussex County’s gain.

Lopez is among three official candidates in the race for the new seat. Glen Urquhart of Rehoboth is challenging Lopez for the Republican nomination, and Andy Staton of Rehoboth has filed for the Democrats.

(Friday’s Cape Gazette reported that former Dewey Beach Mayor Bob Frederick will also be running for the Democratic nomination, but he has yet to file.)

The district, which includes Milton, Lewes and Rehoboth, contains 33,195 registered voters.
About 40 percent, 13,318, are Democrats, with 37 percent, 12,220, registered Republican. But there are enough independent voters, 7,390, or about 22 percent of the electorate, to swing an election.

The remaining 267 voters belong to everything from the Green Party to the Working Family Party to the Natural Law Party to the Blue Enigma Party.

What are all these different people concerned about? As might be expected, the candidates - who are already running hard - say voters talk most about jobs.

Urquhart, by email, said voters tell him that “we need to encourage more private-sector jobs in Sussex County, reduce government to help rebuild trust in the business community, cut regulations and taxes that kill jobs, and improve education so our students are best prepared to get good jobs.”

He said that business people “tell me stories of how DelDOT and DNREC discourage growth and hiring.”

Staton, who said that in addition to voters he has spoken to about 100 community leaders, pointed to a specific area for job growth: healthcare. Because of our aging population, Staton said, we’re going to need 1,500 more healthcare workers by 2018.

(When I mention our aging population, dear reader, I am not, of course, referring to you or me, but to others.)

Healthcare can mean jobs not only for those with college or advanced degrees, but for high school graduates with technical training.

Staton mentioned another factor related to jobs - transportation. He said town officials and business people tell him, “Our folks can’t get to work.”

At a recent town meeting featuring Gov. Jack Markell, a woman brought up this same issue. The governor, however, didn’t offer much encouragement, citing the high cost of the bus service the state currently provides. Staton suggested a public/private partnership, saying it might take some state resources to get it started.

I don’t doubt this is an important issue. As the campaign progresses, it will be interesting to see what ideas can be developed to address this problem.

But jobs aren’t the only issue. Lopez, who agreed jobs are the top issue, said he keeps hearing about keeping children safe. Area residents are tired of people in positions of trust taking advantage of children. “We’ve suffered so much in that area,” Lopez said. “I keep hearing that over and over.”

Lopez, an extension specialist who handles counseling with the University of Delaware, said that children and families need professionals they can talk to. He cited the lack of mental health professionals in Sussex County. Lopez also said people don’t want to see a repeat of 2010. That was “such a destructive year in Delaware politics. Nobody wants a negative campaign,” he said. “Voters say, ‘give me the facts.’”

Well, we can always hope.

Urquhart also brought up issues of trust, referring to the NKS and DelDOT scandals involving lands deals in Milford. “They are tired of the cronyism, conflicts of interest and at times downright corruption that is holding our state back,” he said.

Staton, who has plans for 20 events in the next 60 days, said, “At the end of the day, this campaign is going to be about ideas.”

The preceding, of course, is just a quick look at issues candidates have heard about as they campaign.

If you have any issues you hear your neighbors talking about or any other comments, please send me an email at floodpolitics@gmail.com.

Don Flood is a retired newspaper editor living in Lewes.

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