Denn, Valenzuela seek office of lieutenant governorCandidates discuss schools, sea-level rise
Milford small business owner Sher Valenzuela is challenging incumbent Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, a Democrat, in his bid for re-election. The Cape Gazette asked the candidates about schools, sea-level rise and transportation in Delaware. Answers were limited to 100 words and edited for length.
Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor, Margaret McKeowin of Clayton, did not respond to the questions.
Meet the candidates
Lt. Gov. Matt Denn
Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, 46, is a lawyer who has worked for volunteer legal services and in private practice. He is a former Delaware insurance commissioner, where he focused on reducing workman's compensation premiums. As lieutenant governor, Denn has worked to improve public education and help the governor in his effort to boost the state economy.
Denn was born and raised in Delaware. He and his wife have twin boys, Adam and Zach.
Sher Valenzuela, 58, and her husband, Eli, own First State Manufacturing in Milford, where they employ nearly 70 people. Valenzuela is U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2012 small business person of the year for Delaware.
Valenzuela is also a community volunteer, a professional writer and a mother of two special-needs children.
As lieutenant governor, Valenzuela said she would work to grow the state economy, strengthen schools and build vibrant communities.
Q: School districts in Delaware spend an average of $11,900 per pupil per year. Do you think students are getting a good education for that money? What would you do to make it better?
Denn: We can always do better, but Delaware students are getting a better education than they were four years ago when I took office due to our efforts. Many candidates complain about the amount of money schools spend on overhead; I actually did something about it, publishing a district-by-district spending analysis for taxpayers that caused several districts to increase the percentage of funds spent in the classroom. I also oversaw reforms to improve our recruitment of new teachers, improve professional development of teachers and help students with special needs.
Valenzuela: Delaware is among the top 10 states in the nation for overall education spending, but we fall below the regional average in the amount of money actually reaching our classrooms. We need a hard cap on administrative spending in Delaware.
We should ensure that at least two-thirds of all education spending, or a percentage equal to the regional average, whichever is higher, reaches the classroom each year in direct instructional spending.
Instead of splitting his time with his corporate bankruptcy legal practice over the last four years, Matt Denn should have been devoting his full time and attention to fixing these problems.
Q: What steps would you take to improve transportation and access to public facilities in Sussex County?
Denn: Even in the face of historic budget pressures, this administration has provided funding for road improvements in Sussex County. In addition, the governor has also encouraged a collaborative process among residents and local officials to discuss road expansions or bypasses for roads that are currently overcrowded. These are difficult issues that involve property values and property rights, and he has properly asked residents and local legislators to work through these issues before the state begins new construction plans.
Valenzuela: Transportation and infrastructure are core functions of government. To upgrade these systems throughout our state, we’ll need to make serious investments. To do this, we must stop wasting money on failed programs of the past so we can invest more in our future.
Lt. Gov. Denn was placed in charge of the federal stimulus money spending in Delaware and the weatherization program. It was so riddled with fraud and abuse the federal government shut it down. The state auditor issued a report about almost $1 million dollars in state funding going to a private entity with no accountability.
Q: Sea level is expected to rise faster in Delaware than other places in the coastal United States. What steps should the state take to protect people and property in coastal Delaware?
Denn: Delaware’s Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee has been meeting for some time to discuss the science behind this issue and possible policy recommendations for Delaware. Protecting residents from flooding and other consequences of sea-level changes is an area where the state has a good record over the past four years – our response to flood emergencies has been exemplary. Going forward, the state will need to determine a proper balance between the state’s obligation to protect the public and private property owners’ responsibility for their own property.
Valenzuela: We need more collaboration between government, businesses and average citizens on these issues in Delaware. Right now we have a regulatory system run amok. The bureaucrats in our state are simply running over people, issuing rules and regulations that ignore the needs of citizens, business and common sense.
As lieutenant governor, I will seek the proper balance. We absolutely must protect our coastal areas. The current administration has seemingly thrown up its hands on this issue. They aren’t offering real solutions or meaningful ways forward. I would work with stakeholders throughout our area to do just that.