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Politics & Government

Carney, Murray spar over COVID-19 response in candidate forum

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic took center stage as candidates for governor faced off for the first time this election season during a candidates forum.

Gov. John Carney's handling of the pandemic was Republican candidate Julianne Murray's primary line of attack in the first candidates’ forum before the general election.

"I think politics absolutely played a role in what happened here, and I do think that Governor Carney is vulnerable," said Murray.

She believes Carney is taking too long to reopen the state, arguing the state should reopen with no restrictions.

Carney disagreed, saying he’s following the science and data.

"All you need to do is compare the success of the states that follow the guidelines and those like Arizona,Texas, and Florida with Republican governors that did what Ms. Murray's suggesting," said Carney. "They had a terrible rebound in cases. They've had to fight their way back and if you listen to them today they sound like they're talking and singing off of our songbook."

But Murray doesn’t believe Gov. John Carney is following the science and data in making his decisions during the pandemic,

Murray points to big box stores being opened as supposed to small businesses.

"Small businesses that had similar vocations, a furniture store, clothing store were shut down because they were not a big box store," said Murray. "So I think politics absolutely had something, it may have started as a public health thing, but politics absolutely played into it."

Early in the pandemic, Carney says whether stores sold necessities like food, water, toilet paper, and medications did factor into who could open.

But he reiterated that his decisions during the pandemic have been a team effort using science to help.

"As governor it was my responsibility to bring our public health team together to seek out the best public health and science behind the decisions we were making," said Carney.

The two candidates also largely disagreed on mask mandates. Murray says mask mandates are unconstitutional and questions the effectiveness of masks.

Carney disagrees with a federal mask mandate, saying mandates should only be where needed with CDC and NIH guidelines followed on wearing them. 

Other topics were discussed, including the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Murray claims protests centered on racial justice are not peaceful and she stands behind law enforcement, though she adds there is a need to weed out bad cops.

Carney says he and Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki wanted to work with protestors in a peaceful way, and argues they did. He also points to the state’s commitment to improve training and use of force policy- as well as forging a better relationship between people of color and law enforcement. 

The candidates did agree on one thing. They both said there are more pressing issues to discuss in Delaware than the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.

All of the candidates at the forum were asked about QAnon, which has been an issue in the U.S. Senate race between Democratic Sen. Chris Coons and his Republican challenger Lauren Witzke.

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