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Sen. Carper, Arlett clash in U.S. Senate debate

University of Delaware/ Evan Krape

Democratic Senator Tom Carper sparred with his challenger, Republican Rob Arlett, at the University of Delaware Wednesday night.

During the hour-long debate, Carper answered questions alongside — and at times posed by Arlett.

The Sussex County Councilman called November’s vote a referendum on Carper’s career, arguing it’s time to get “career politicians” like Carper out of Congress.  

“I think we need to focus on the future. And I agree with my opponent when he said 18 years ago that it’s time for generation change,” he said. “I am stepping up to be that next generation.”

When discussing accountability in the #MeToo era, Arlett brought up a decades-old incident where Carper slapped his first wife, giving her a black eye. Carper responded that he made a mistake and had owned it.

“Every other year for forty years, people like you, my friend, have just dredged this up to try to create political mischief for me. And let me just say, it doesn’t work. It didn’t work thirty years ago, it didn’t work twenty years ago, and it didn’t work years ago. And you know what, it’s not going to work this time either,” he said.

Listen to first half of 2018 Delaware Debates - U.S. Senate

The candidates were also asked about topics ranging from Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation to marijuana legalization.

Carper repeatedly brought up the need for more action on climate change.

“We live in the lowest lying state in America. The seas are rising and we’re sinking,” said Carper. “That ain’t a good combination.”

Arlett says he doesn’t want any more environmental regulations.

Carper defended the Affordable Care Act, while Arlett promised to help repeal it.

“The Affordable Care Act is not affordable,” he said. “And just ten years ago, the average insurance premium was just over $300. Today it’s over $1,300.”

Carper criticized last fall’s Republican-led tax bill for contributing to the national deficit. Arlett praised it as helping everyday Delawareans.

The pair will compete during the general election on November 6th.


Listen to second half of 2018 Delaware Debates - U.S. Senate.

A September poll from University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communications found Carper leading Arlett by over 30 points.

The debate was moderated by founding director of UD’s Center for Political Communication and former CNN journalist Ralph Begleiter. Questions were submitted by University of Delaware and Delaware State University students.

The UD Center for Political Communication and Delaware Public Media produced Wednesday night’s debate.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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