Longtime Democrat Bernard Pepukayi has stepped up to be the Republican candidate for Delaware attorney general.
Pepukayi switched parties Monday, filing as the Republican attorney general candidate Monday morning. The state GOP nominated Pepukayi after its lone candidate Peggy Marshall Thomas dropped out of the race last week.
Pepukayi has served as a Delaware Family Court Commissioner, New Castle County Attorney and Legal Counsel for former Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. He was also convicted on drug charges as a teen, which he addressed during his announcement Sunday at New Canaan Baptist Church and seen on YouTube .
“Like so many other black males that grew up in that area, I was once in the criminal justice system,” he said.
He noted that most of the people making decisions about the criminal justice system have never been on the other side of it.
“Our community has not benefited. In fact, our community has been harmed by it," he said. "When we have … our sons and daughters and young men ushered away to prison like cattle, something has to change."
State GOP Vice Chair Emily Taylor says she’s not worried about Pepukayi joining the race late.
“He’s been building support within various communities throughout Delaware not as a candidate for a long enough time," she said.
Taylor claims he’s among a growing number of Democrats dissatisfied with their party’s direction.
Pepukayi plans to focus his platform on reducing recidivism and preventing young people from entering the criminal justice system. His private practice, Pepukayi Law, specializes in family court and juvenile delinquency.
Taylor says his experience on both sides of the criminal justice system make Pepukayi an ideal candidate.
“We know that it’s a twelve week rush, but we’re going to make a big pitch because he’s got a very compelling story to tell and I think he would make an excellent attorney general," she said.
Pepukayi will face the winner of a four-way Democratic primary election for attorney general.