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Races to watch: 17th State Senate District

We continue our look key legislative race in Tuesday;s general election, turning our focus to the 17th State Senate District in the center of Kent County. It includes Dover, Camden and Wyoming.

Candidates for its State Senate seat are Republican Mayor of Camden Justin King and Democrat Trey Paradee, the  29th House District State Representative.

Delaware Public Media’s Nick Ciolino covered that race. The Democrat Trey Paradee sat down for an interview.  Multiple attempts to schedule time with Republican Justin King failed.

Democrat Brian Bushweller was first elected to the 17th District Senate seat in 2008. He joined a long list of departing state officials when he announced his retirement back in August.


The Republican vying for the vacancy is Camden Mayor Justin King. King is a former police officer and small business owner.


He did not respond to several requests to schedule an interview for this story, but in a previous interview with Delaware Public Media he counted education, public safety and balancing the budget as top issues.


King’s Democratic opponent is Trey Paradee. He’s the owner of a financial planning company and held the 29th district House seat for past five years.


“After being involved in a lot of different community organizations, getting into politics seemed like the next logical step," said Paradee. "I just felt that with my background, my education and my small business background I had something to offer, and I still do.”


Paradee opposes the tax cuts passed by the Trump administration last year and calls Delaware’s tax structure outdated and in need of reform.


He says the First State should look to New Jersey and other states with more progressive tax structures.


“So that those households that are making a quarter million dollars or more or a half million dollars or more, maybe they’re paying a quarter of a percent more or a half a percent more than those households that are really struggling to get by.” Paradee said.


On Justin King’s campaign website, he says promoting a healthy business environment is vital. He addsunnecessary costs, bureaucratic barriers, and governmental red tape hinder small business development.


Paradee commends the move to allocate funds from this year’s state budget to build a parking garage in Downtown Dover, adding the state should add more incentives to the ones already available for new businesses who set up shop in the city’s downtown.


“We’re going to have to do more of those types of programs to give business owners incentives to invest in these properties, invest in their businesses and try to restore the Downtown Dover area to its former glory,” said Paradee.


One person dies every day in Delaware from a drug overdose.


Paradee advocates for a treatment-based approach to combat the opioid crisis saying you can not incarcerate your way to a better society.


He says more pressure needs to be put on insurance companies to provide sustained coverage for people with substance abuse disorder and to pay addiction counsellors competitive rates.


“So if you have young talented people who go to school to learn how to give mental health counselling, drug treatment counselling and so forth, they’re choosing to go to other states where they can make more money," said Paradee. "So that’s one of the things we need to work on.”


As Delaware seeks to mitigate the damages caused by drug abuse it also struggles to budget the cost of health care.


Health Care takes up a third of the state budget and the cost is growing faster than the state’s economy.


Paradee says this is a difficult issue. He proposes charging higher copays to state employees, and trying to reduce the number of Delawareans receiving Medicaid coverage.


“We’re going to have to continue to be vigilant to make sure that we’re taking care of the populations—the children, the elderly people, people who are disabled who genuinely need Medicaid benefits—and try to weed out those who are not necessarily as deserving,” said Paradee.


On his website, King says guiding a child's education may be the most important task parents face.


He describes the role of state government in education as becoming increasingly adversarial to parents putting its own interests ahead of families.


Paradee supports policies protecting LGBTQ students but adds the Department of Education regulation 225 proposed earlier this year went too far in allowing elementary school children to self-identify without parental consent.


“I do have a problem with that," said Paradee. "I think that parents have parental rights and should be involved in any decisions that could affect the health and safety of their children.”


Democrats hold the state Senate by only one seat. So Bushweller’s replacement in Delaware’s 17th Senate district could tip the scales in either direction.  Democrats have a over 9,000 person registration advantage over Republicans in the district with nearly 8,000 people unaffiliated or registered to another party.

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