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Gubernatorial candidates spar over COVID-19, come together on education

Delaware’s candidates for governor faced off on the first night of the University of Delaware’s 2020 debates.


In a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both candidates met for the first night of the Delaware Deabtes, hosting by the University of Delaware and Delaware Public Media.


The debate between incumbent Gov. John Carney and Republican challenger Julianne Murray covered a wide range of issues facing Delawareans today.


Among them was the Coronavirus pandemic. The University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication released a survey during the debate showing 78 percent of Delawareans support a mandatory mask wearing requirement.


But Murray remains against such a requirement.


“And I do not favor mandatory mask wearing. Who we need to be concerned about here is our vulnerable population and our vulnerable population are people with preexisting conditions and the elderly.”


Carney disagrees, and says his office has been following guidance from doctors.


“Yeah well it’s very consistent with what we have learned over the last 7 months and what the guidance has been with the CDC that mask wearing now is accepted as the most important thing that people can do to prevent the spread of the virus.”


The two disagree on many issues, including the state’s Coronavirus pandemic response and the environment. But they appear to have some common ground on education.



Carney responded to a question about this week’s settlement of a lawsuit over education funding, saying the state needs to invest more in low-income children.


“If we’re gonna be competitive as a state, if we’re gonna be successful as a state and have each of our children be successful, then we need to make sure that these children are getting the education that they deserve.”


Murray agrees addressing educational inequities is a priority.


“I also think that there will be bipartisan support for it. I think that by and large, universally in this state, I’m gonna say the majority of the legislators would agree that we are not doing enough right now with education.”


Their disagreement comes on how to achieve equity.  Murray does not agree with creating a Wilmington School District, saying there are already too many districts already


Carney wants to give the Redding Consortium a chance to finish its work on the issue before committing to an approach.


Paul Brewer from the University of Delaware provided some insight into the performance of both candidates. 


“I think they both represented a fair representation of where they stand on issues. I think based on Delaware's track record of voting in elections and based on our polling that on some key issues Carney is more in sync with the Delaware electorate than Murray is.”


He adds the messages that Carney was sending are more likely to resonate with voters, especially when you look at things like the Coronavirus pandemic.


Carney has said he wants voters to focus on his record as governor, including his coronavirus response, and has not spent much time campaigning to continue working on issues facing the state.


Murray is now focusing on what she calls ‘balancing Delaware,’ arguing Delaware needs fewer career politicians like Carney in office.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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