16 To Watch In 2016: State Rep. David Bentz

Back in September, Democrat David Bentz won in a special election that determined who would take over from the resigning State Rep. Michael Barbieri.  Both candidates ran a clean campaign.  Since he won the election to serve the 18th district of Delaware, Bentz won some plum assignments with the various House committees in the 148th General Assembly.  He will be serving on the Education, Energy, Labor and Natural Resources.  But a big surprise was his assignment as Vice-Chair of the Health and Human Services Committees.  Barbieri served as the Chair of that committee, a role which State Rep. Deb Heffernan will take on.

I am very curious how Bentz will do in the General Assembly.  As a former legislative aide to Barbieri, I’m sure he gained a great deal of insight on the legislative process.  What kind of legislation will he introduce?  How will his votes land in the Education Committee?  If the General Assembly attempts to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, what vote will Bentz cast?  He will definitely be a legislator to watch in the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly.

In looking at various issues he has written about, I think we can expect to see some definite education, criminal justice, student loan defaults and issues with the homeless in Bentz’s future.  As the only “rookie” legislator introduced this term, I expect a learning curve but I think Bentz will rise to the challenge.  The most important thing for him to do will be to emerge out of Barbieri’s shadow.  He will need to become his own legislator.  Which means I certainly hope he won’t follow in Barbieri’s footsteps on House Bill 50!  I look forward to seeing what the “rookie” does during his first, albeit shortened, term.

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David Bentz Beats Eileen O’Shaunessy-Coleman In 18th District State Representative Special Election

In a special election today, former legislative aide David Bentz won the vacant slot left by former State Rep. Mike Barbieri when he resigned at the end of July.  While the count is not official yet, it looks like Bentz beat his opponent by a 56.7% of the vote.  This gives House Democrats continued control of the coveted 3/5ths of the House majority, which is the amount needed to pass certain bills like tax increases.*

I contacted both of the candidates for their stance on education in Delaware, but nothing came of it.  It will be interesting to see if Bentz sticks to his campaign promises in supporting the override of Governor Markell’s House Bill 50 veto.  Parents who advocate for opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment are growing by the day, and they want this to happen.

O’Shaunessy-Coleman ran a good campaign, and for a while there today she was tracking ahead in the polls.  She is a special education advocate, so I wouldn’t have minded seeing her win the slot.  I am confident we haven’t heard the last from her.  Part of me is torn on this.  I liked both the candidates, but I’m not sure the House Dems having that much control is a good thing. It doesn’t allow for a great deal of balance in Delaware.  I’m sure this will anger many of my Democrat friends, but with the way certain legislators have been behaving the past few months, a balance is very much needed to counter certain egos.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am in the middle.  I follow the dictates of what I believe and my own conscience when it comes to politics.  Both sides have valid issues, and both have some things I am fundamentally against.  I don’t choose to get into non-education matters too often, but that may change in the future as I am learning there is a lot of politics that goes along with education, especially in Delaware.

But for now congrats to State Rep. David Bentz.  As I wrote on his Facebook page, he will assuredly be hearing from me quite a bit, and I reminded him to stay true to his constituents.

*This article has been updated as of 9/14/15 to reflect that the 3/5 majority is needed for tax increases, NOT state budget approval.