In Senate race, Tom Carper battles three challengersGroff, Pires, Wade debate incumbent in Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach — As the general election draws near, voters want to know what candidates think about the economy, education and other issues that will affect the Cape Region. About 90 people attend the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce candidates forum at Rehoboth Beach Convention Hall, Oct. 17.
All four candidates for U.S. Senate – Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, Republican Kevin Wade, Independent Alex Pires and Green Party candidate Andrew Groff – answered questions from the chamber and from audience members.
Carper, the incumbent, said he has worked across the aisle to accomplish things in Delaware. “Today, we lead the country in so many ways,” he said.
“We need bridge-builders in Washington,” Carper said. “We need leaders who don’t build themselves up by tearing other people down.”
In recent months, Pires has accused Carper of corruption, insider trading, domestic abuse and lying about his service in the Vietnam War.
“I don’t take money from anyone in the corporate world,” Pires said. Pointing at Carper, Pires said, “He is the world-record holder for taking money from corporations.”
Pires said more federal money should be spent on children and medical services and less money should be spent on corporate subsidies. “I’m interested in families,” he said. “Why are we spending so much of our time and money on the corporate world?”
Groff said the Federal Reserve is still issuing $40 billion per month in bailouts. “You all have been eclipsed by corporations,” he said. “Tom’s an excellent executive, but he sucks at being a legislator.”
Groff, who owns a computer-consulting firm for small businesses, criticized Carper for being in office when the economy began to crumble and taking no action.
Wade, the only candidate who stood from his chair each time he spoke, said, “Unlike the U.S. Senate, I’ve had to balance a budget for 30 years.”
Wade founded Philadelphia Control Systems Inc., an engineering corporation based in Christiana. “We don’t have people who’ve acted with responsibility, who’ve signed the front of a paycheck,” he said of legislators.
Moderator Ed Lewandowski, of University of Delaware Sea Grant Program, focused mainly on job creation and small businesses, and he asked what each candidate would do to improve the economy.
Carper said President Barack Obama has created a roadmap for deficit reduction, which includes lowering tax rates on corporations. He said the president’s proposal has earned bipartisan support. “This is a good roadmap; we should do it,” Carper said.
Carper said a comprehensive deficit reduction plan would demonstrate fiscal responsibility. The government does not create jobs, Carper said; it creates a nurturing environment where businesses can thrive.
Carper said he has worked to promote a healthy environment and improve major highways in Delaware to boost tourism, which is good for small businesses.
Groff said the federal government should stop investing trillions in wars overseas and instead tend to its problems at home to improve the economy. “If we had zero budgetary spending, we would still have deficit spending,” Groff said.
Groff said uncertainty in the economy means small businesses are not hiring. “Government spending has its place; I’m not sure it’s going to buy jobs,” he said. “The government’s in the way.”
Pires said the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is not the answer to the country’s economic woes. “Simpson-Bowles is a good idea, but it hasn’t gone anywhere,” he said. “Jobs come from small businesses. They don’t come from the top, they come from the bottom.”
Pires said credit is key to the success of small businesses, which are suffering because of big banks. As a board member of Community Bank, Pires said he has lent more than $200,000 to small businesses.
In answering, Wade circled back to one of his main campaign points: “Washington won’t change until we change the people there,” he said. “Career politicians are the source of our problems.”
Wade said the tax code needs an overhaul. The federal tax code adds 12.5 percent to the cost of everything manufactured in the United States, Wade said. He called the code a toy box for special interests. “There is no confidence in the leadership of this nation,” he said.
Wade also said regulations on job creators should be cut, and more oil drilling should occur on U.S. soil.
To compete globally in the job market, Pires said, the nation’s children need more education in the fields of math, science, technology and engineering. “We are falling behind,” he said. “We haven’t put our efforts in the right place.”
Pires said it is important to focus on science and math in early education because when students reach college, it is too late to put them on a different path.
Groff, a computer science teacher at Delaware Technical and Community College disagreed; he said the change should start in universities.
Groff, who has also been endorsed by the Libertarian Party, said federal programs such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been failures. He said federal planning does not work, and schools should be regulated locally.
Wade said the federal Department of Education was created 40 years ago to maximize the effectiveness of education. “It’s been an abysmal failure,” he said.
Carper argued Delaware is ranked in the top three states for education in the nation, and the state has worked to improve teacher and school leader training in recent years.
War on women
One audience member noted the political preoccupation with abortion and contraception, and the high infant mortality rate in Delaware. He asked the candidates if they thought human rights or religious rights were more important. Another audience member asked if the candidates would vote to fund Planned Parenthood.
Wade said no right should supersede any other right. He said he was not proud Delaware has the highest per capita abortion rate in the nation. “I believe in life,” he said.
Wade said he would support some funding to Planned Parenthood, but not if it would be used for abortions. “Planned Parenthood is not a central theme in healthcare for this country,” he said.
Wade said he would rather provide healthcare funding for children and the elderly.
“We have 100 Senators; 17 of them are women,” Pires said. “I think women are treated disproportionately poor.” The government should focus on human rights; religion is a personal matter, he said.
Pires said he would vote to fund Planned Parenthood. He noted the irony of men constantly trying to legislate women’s health issues.
Carper said most religions instruct followers to treat others the way they would like to be treated. “I think we have a moral obligation to show our faith by our deeds,” he said.
Carper said he would fund Planned Parenthood because 98 percent of women use contraception, and contraception will reduce the need for abortions.
Groff said Planned Parenthood is a vital healthcare program. “Healthcare is a human right,” he said.
Groff said, besides infant mortality, Delaware is the fourth worst state in the country for cancer rates. He said the government is to blame for allowing corporations to pollute Delaware’s shoreline and ground water.