With Republican State Rep. Joe Miro retiring after twenty years in the state House, the 22nd Representative District is up for grabs. And the vacancy has drawn four contenders—two Democrats and two Republicans.
Republican candidate Kathy Beard is running for elected office for the first time.
“There’s a lot of need in our communities. I definitely have seen that in my volunteer work,” said Beard.
She sees Joe Miro’s retirement as the perfect chance to get more involved.
Her opponent in next week’s primary, Mike Smith, ran unsuccessfully for the 22nd District seat in 2014. He sees this year’s race as an opportunity.
“We don’t like the direction where Delaware is headed. We’ve focused on a lot of issues that are good for folks. But if you’re not focusing on jobs then the rest of the stuff, how do you do it? We’re just worried our kids won’t want to live here,” said Smith.
The two Republicans agree on several issues, including one unresolved during last legislative session.
“We should 100 percent do budget smoothing," said Smith. "It just makes logical sense.”
“What it does it is allows us to take a surplus in a year when we have more money than expected, and be able to put that aside for another budget year when we have a deficit, instead of raising taxes and cutting services,” said Beard.
And both say district residents want changes in education.
“We could look at our funding formulas and how money is distributed based on special needs. There’s also opportunities for piloting various initiatives based on what Teachers of the Year might think is a good idea. Or educational research. The DelawareCAN organization has some good ideas,” said Beard.
Smith thinks the state has lost its way on education.
“So many times it’s come down to traditional public schools versus charter schools and that’s not the argument at all,” Smith said.
He sees consolidation as one solution.
“School district consolidation is one thing you need to do immediately. Just from a procurement standpoint, that will save tens of millions of dollars. And then guess what let’s take all that money and pour it right directly back into our classroom,” said Smith.
Both candidates also point to health care as a big issue.
Beard says she’ll work on improving mental health care options and reducing medical malpractice insurance costs.
“That will also help us with availability because doctors are tending to move out of state because their insurance rates are so high. I would also like to look at turning around the very high rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality,” said Beard.
Smith points to his work at the University of Delaware STAR campus, where he modeled a prevention and wellness partnership with the business community.
“Did that lead to more efficiency at work? Yes it did," said Smith. "Did it lower your healthcare costs for you and your family members? Yes, it did.”
Smith bills himself as strong on economic development. He serves on county and state-level economic development councils and committees, and has developed a legislative proposal for what he calls the First State Innovation Zone.
“We really are what is a hotbed for the rest of America. You have the farms, you have the big city if you will in Wilmington, you have this big bioscience, life-science corridor that’s developing at the STAR campus, if you take all of those things collectively and merge that with the top tier research coming out, so if we get an infusion of capital, I think we can reinvent delaware in a really nice and collective way,” said Smith.
He also hopes to get more money to improve infrastructure in his district.
“We actually have the second most interior roads in the state of Delaware here in District 22," said Smith. "The problem with that is every legislator gets the same amount of money to go ahead and use for road repair and maintenance every year.”
Beard wants the Equal Rights Amendment passed, and to improve efficiency in state government.
“We need to take a stronger look at where we spend our money,” said Beard.
Beard says her background in business would help her compromise and negotiate across the aisle.
“I’ve worked in so many roles with so many different kinds of people, I can work to agree on solutions to the problems that we have,” Beard said.
She thinks her ability to listen to constituents would help her appeal to Democrats.
“People talk about divisiveness, but I’m really not seeing that," said Beard. "I’m seeing a lot of commonality in what people are looking for.”
Mike Smith and Kathy Beard face off in the Republican primary election on Sept. 6th.