Six Democrats make run for Congress
Voters will have six congressional candidates to choose from when casting their ballots in the Sept. 13 primary.
Sean Barney, Scott Walker, Bryan Townsend, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Mike Miller, Elias Weir – all Democrats – are running for Delaware’s one and only seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. The winner of the primary will face off against Republican Hans Reigle in the Nov. 8 general election.
Since 2011, the position has been held by John Carney, who is now running for governor. Sean Barney Barney, an Iraq War veteran with the U. S. Marine Corps, thinks his experience working for Sen. Tom Carper on Capitol Hill and as policy director to Gov. Jack Markell gives him an edge over his opponents.
“I have direct experience with the issues and the direct experience getting the results,” he said.
Barney, 41, lives in Wilmington with his wife, Nikki, and their daughter, Sophie, and works as president of a Delaware venture capital firm called InfoVest. He said he understands the importance of investing in technology, small businesses and the workforce as a way to grow Delaware’s economy and create wellpaying jobs. So far, that hasn’t been done enough, he said.
“I think, like many people, I’m frustrated by what I see in Washington,” he said.
For Barney, Social Security is the most important issue. He believes in expanding Social Security benefits and supports the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, which provides retirement benefits to people who take time off work to raise a child or care for a relative.
He also wants to give seniors a cost- of- living increase and pass legislation that ties the Social Security cost- of- living adjustment to the consumer price index for the elderly ( CPI- E). Barney believes cost of living should reflect the expenses seniors living on fixed incomes face everyday, such as the rise in prescription drug prices. Lisa Blunt Rochester When her husband died in 2014, Blunt Rochester was devastated and searching for a purpose. She started noticing that people all over Delaware – not just in her home city of Wilmington – were struggling to get by and knew what she had to do.
“Instead of feeling bad about the things I saw, I decided to be a part of the solution,” she said. “I decided to throw my hat in the ring.”
Blunt Rochester, a 54-year-old mother of two, is best known as a former state secretary of labor but before that, she served as deputy secretary of the state Department of Health and Social Services. She became the state’s personnel director in 2001 and later CEO of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.
“Service is not new to me and is definitely important to me,” Blunt Rochester said.
“I have a track record of bringing people to the table and finding common solutions and I think that’s absolutely necessary in Washington right now,” she added.
She believes many of Delaware’s issues can be solved by creating jobs and strengthening the economy, which can be done by investing in infrastructure, providing tax credits to incentivize small businesses owners and training the state’s workforce through the existing education system. She also thinks the Paycheck Fairness Act is long overdue to close the gender pay gap and plans to support legislation that makes college more affordable so that students aren’t graduating with so much debt. Mike Miller Miller is a 47-year-old tax accountant from Lewes who is hoping his third time is the charm for a seat in the U.S. House. In 2000 and 2002, he lost to Mike Castle, who was Delaware’s longtime congressman prior to John Carney.
Miller, who owns and operates two businesses and has three children with his wife, Denise, said he decided to run again because he hasn’t seen much of an improvement.
“Many of those challenges back then are the same challenges we continue to face today, and I think we are stuck in Washington and we just continue to kick the can down the road and we need to make some changes,” he said.
He said he’s still fighting for some of the same issues, like raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour and providing adequate healthcare for veterans. He thinks veterans should be able to see a primary care physician instead of traveling to the VA hospital, where they sometimes wait weeks to see a doctor.
Miller wants to direct federal funding to develop the Port of Wilmington, which he thinks will in turn create jobs and boost the economy. He also wants to pass legislation to increase Social Security survivor benefits and take the cap off upper income.
“I certainly think we can do better than what we’ve been doing,” Miller said. “I’ll be the best congressman this state has ever had if they just give me a chance.” Bryan Townsend As a state senator, Townsend said he knows how the legislative process works and how difficult the political environment can be. He thinks he has the right kind of experience to be a congressman because he understands the big issues.
“This is stuff I’ve been doing for four years now in the state senate,” he said. “It’s one thing to campaign and say you’re going to do things, and it’s another to have done it.”
Townsend, 35, was first elected to the state senate in 2012 for a term shortened by redistricting and then was re-elected in 2014 after beating New Castle County Councilman David L. Tackett in the primary and running unopposed in the general election. He currently works as an attorney in Wilmington and lives near Newark with his wife, Lilianna.
Over the years, he said, he’s seen how gridlock and bad policy in Washington can hurt Delawareans.
“There’s a long list of things I’m ready to advocate on,” he said, adding that education and a federal solution to gun safety are at the top of that list. He also wants to focus on incarceration issues, addiction help and student loan burdens.
Townsend promised that if he makes it to Washington, he won’t forget his hometown roots.
“Everyone has been really supportive,” he said. “It’s kind of cool that a kid from Newark might be going to Congress.” Scott Walker After graduating college, Walk- er started his own flower business, which turned into a horticultural company that installed and maintained plants for commercial clients. As a business owner for 30 years, he likes to think he knows a thing or two about how jobs are created and how the economy grows.
“This country was built on entrepreneurs, but we’ve lost our mojo,” he said. “It’s not going to be hard to get it back. It’s not going to cost a penny to get it back. But someone, a congressman, has to get up and speak and has to deliver the message.”
Walker, 65, is a father of four who lives with his wife, Joan, in Milford and Wilmington. He owns several properties in Wilmington and New Castle County and said he decided to run for Congress because of how he was treated by the state as a landlord and the racial discrimination his tenants have experienced.
“To be honest, I was angry and I was fed up with being treated badly just because I was a businessman,” he said.
He has helped the poor and disabled in Wilmington through two organizations he founded – the Civil Rights Center and the Disabled Disadvantaged Delawareans Foundation – and vows to combat discrimination against women and racial minorities as a congressman.
Walker also wants to lower the tax rate for corporations to try and get businesses to stay in Delaware instead of going overseas. Elias Weir Weir moved to Newark last May from New York, where he lost an election for New York City Council and made two unsuccessful tries for state senate.
The Post was unable to reach Weir for an interview.