Candidate Conversations: 10th State Senate District
While election season has been over for much of the country since November, Democrats and Republicans in the First State are batting in extra innings for control over the state Senate.
Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long’s Middletown seat is up for grabs with three candidates vying for the chair. Until it’s filled, the state Senate is deadlocked with 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats. And its worth noting that the Democrats have held the legislature’s upper chamber for more than 40 years.
Our political reporter, James Dawson, interviewed all three candidates, Democrat Stephanie Hansen, Libertarian Joseph Lazendorfer and Republican John Marino.
Democrat Stephanie Hansen says she’s the best-equipped candidate to tackle Delaware’s perennial budget problem if she’s elected to a Middletown-area senate seat.
Hansen has worked for more than 15 years as a lawyer guiding nonprofits, municipalities and businesses through the state’s environmental permitting process. In that time, she's noted the barriers the permitting process creates for businesses, saying it can take years to navigate at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars or more.
She calls it one of the reasons Delaware has trouble attracting companies.
“It’s the process, really. It’s the number of steps you have to go through in the process, the unpredictability of the process,” said Hansen.
She adds agencies overseeing permitting aren’t well coordinated and could be better linked to make the pipeline more efficient.
Hansen says she’d start by making changes to that process, and believes that should drum up more cash for the state.
But she says lawmakers also need to fix an unresponsive tax structure.
“The much larger problem is that we are basing our revenue on things that are unstable. We base too much of our revenue on things that are unstable, meaning abandoned property and lottery proceeds,” said Hansen.
A bipartisan group outlined such recommendations in 2015, which the General Assembly largely ignored.
Libertarian Joseph Lanzendorfer says he could force both sides of the aisle in the state Senate to be more cooperative should he win this month’s special election in the 10th District.
This month’s special election could decide control of the Delaware Senate, but should Lanzendorfer, a political newcomer, win, Democrats and Republicans could seek his tiebreaking vote.
The General Assembly’s upper chamber has been tied at 10-10 since Bethany Hall-Long left her Middletown-area seat to become lieutenant governor in January.
Lanzendorfer says he wants to carefully cut unnecessary spending out of Delaware’s $4.1 billion budget without touching education or entitlement programs.
“In the long run it’s more fiscally conservative to actually invest in education because you get such a better society when you have a more educated society and a better economy,” said Lanzendorfer.
The state’s share of Medicaid totals $760 million in the current year and has historically been a target for conservatives trying to reign in spending.
Lanzendorfer also wants to legalize recreational marijuana to help boost education spending.
Lanzendorfer says he ideally wouldn’t tax the drug, but if it is legalized and taxed, it’s better to earmark it for a specific purpose instead of letting that revenue flow into Delaware’s general fund.
“As a Libertarian, I think people should have the freedom to buy it and sell it and smoke it, but being pragmatic about the situation I know that it is going to get taxed,” said Lanzendorfer.
He notes that cash should help create a voucher system where students could use taxpayer money to attend any school they want, including private and religious institutions.
A bill introduced in 2015 that would’ve created a voucher system never got out of a House Committee.
Voters will choose among Hansen, Lanzendorfer and Republican John Marino and Libertarian in the 10th District State Senate special election February 25th.