I attended a Delaware Governor and Lieutenant Governor debate tonight at Delaware State University. It felt like it should have been an episode of The Gong Show. In a night where Colin Bonini said he felt like Delaware’s apology for slavery was a crutch and Lamar Gunn talked to the audience about discrimination and how they don’t have to vote blue or red but rather the person. There was a lot of talk about discrimination tonight, yet no one addressed the point that the Libertarian and Green candidates were not invited to the debate. Candidates who I’m sure would have had a lot more to offer than the ones I saw tonight.
Yes, in a reply to a question about a lack of minority teachers in Delaware, Senator Bethany Hall-Long took it upon herself, a DSEA supported candidate, to publicly support Teach For America. She said why do we have to wait that long when we have Teach For America ready to come into our schools. So let me get this straight Bethany: you would rather have minorities go through a six-week crash course on teaching Delaware students and throw them in schools than go through the actual degree process to become a Delaware teacher? Would you have come out with that statement before you were endorsed by the Delaware State Education Association? This was after she gave a very bizarre “Take A Look At Me Now” opening statement like she was auditioning for a 21st Century Shirley Temple movie.
Colin Bonini decided to throw the six priority schools under the bus. And then go in reverse and run over them all over them again. By calling them “six failed schools” because of their test scores, he bashed the schools for only hiring assistant principals. But then he went that next step as only Bonini would by saying they should have been converted to charter schools. When asked about why he voted no on the resolution for Delaware to apologize for its role in slavery, Bonini actually told the over 90% African-American crowd he thought slavery apologies were a crutch.
And John Carney. If I heard “if you take a look at my plan” one more time I was probably going to have to yell “Do you even know what is in your plans?” Because it was obvious in many areas he didn’t. When asked about criminal justice he said his campaign was coming out with a plan on that subject in a few days. As he smugly sat there and said “When I become the next Governor,” Bonini retorted back with his I know I’m going to lose face with a similar comment about how Carney would work in his administration. In fact, Bonini made it a point to tell the audience he likes John Carney even though his campaign manager keeps telling him to stop saying that. Carney went a step further and told everyone he and Bonini are friends, and “that’s how we get things done in Delaware.” Yes, the rotting and festering wound we call “The Delaware Way.” In some respects, Bonini almost looked like he was prepping for continued life as a Delaware Senator who will have to work with Governor Carney. It was the only logical answer I could find as he tried to mesmerize the audience with the magical word “Prosperity” throughout the night.
When Lieutenant Governor candidate Lamar Gunn wasn’t trying to eviscerate his opponent every chance he got, he did make some good points about race in Delaware. But it got lost in his newly created powers he wants for the Lieutenant Governor role. Carney, Bonini, and Hall-Long all talked about college and career readiness. And this legislation and that legislation. Bonini answered many questions with one word, “Prosperity”, before he attempted to explain why prosperity is the answer to life. Both Hall-Long and Carney couldn’t seem to reconcile how Delaware needs all these 21st Century jobs starting real soon and how we need the bottom rung jobs as well. It almost seemed like they were telling the audience, “Don’t worry, we will create jobs for you if we can’t get you into those Pathways To Prosperity jobs.”
It was a dismal night. After the Carney-Bonini debate, someone asked me if I liked what I heard. My only response was “I never like what I hear.” This is Delaware. Everyone wants a seat at the table, but as Gunn put it, you aren’t being invited to the table, you are a dessert on the table.” Two words I didn’t hear from any candidate’s mouth were special education. They all seem to forget that for some students, it isn’t just being a minority, it is also being a student with disabilities. But Carney told the audience how we have been going from one education reform to the next, but whatever we come up with next, we have to make it stick. Like we haven’t heard that before. As the Delaware DOE gets ready to unleash the first draft of their ESSA plan that will be a boon for outside providers and will pretty much give schools the same sucky accountability standards they had before. But both Carney and Bonini said they believe in local control.
In response to the upcoming report coming out on discrimination in Delaware State Government, Carney wants to take that role out of the Office of Management and Budget and give them their own brand new cabinet position in Delaware government. As he talked about the huge deficit we will face in the next year. When asked if that would be separate from a Civil Rights office, Carney quickly chimed in that he could roll that into it. Bonini spoke about a letter he wrote wanting to create new committees in the House and Senate for civil rights but added it would have been hard to do in the middle of a General Assembly. But Gunn went after Hall-Long for not voting on it even though it was never legislation.
Like the picture of John Bonini and Colin Carney above, my brain felt very blurry as I left the auditorium and walked to my car on this crisp and cool Autumn evening. It is an epidemic during this 2016 election season. Brain cells crashing into each other as we continue to ask ourselves why the future sounds so important but those guiding the way are oblivious to so much. If I walked away from this with any support for any of the four candidates, it would have to be Gunn for Lieutenant Governor. Only to watch him preside over the Senate while Bethany Hall-Long fake smiles the whole time. I would have loved to have seen Carney and Bonini react to Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate Sean Goward’s awesome ideas. But that’s the Delaware Way…
So what should I expect in the next four years of Delaware? John Carney purposely avoiding eye contact with me, which would make tonight the hat trick for this kind of behavior since I met him at one of his Spaghetti meet and greets earlier last month. But that’s okay, I’m sure he has a plan…