Meet the candidates in Tuesday’s election
State Rep. John Kowalko is seeking his seventh term in District 25 but first must survive a challenge from political newcomer Bryan Rash on Tuesday.
District 25 encompasses the southern half of Newark, from Main Street down to just south of Old Baltimore Pike and from the state line west to South Chapel Street.
Rash, a 55-year-old Republican, lives on Old Cooch’s Bridge Road and has owned an auto repair business for the last 10 years.
He said he decided to run for office because he doesn’t like the direction state politics is going.
“Most of my life, Delaware has pretty much been down the middle regardless of what party you’re part of. You never had to worry it would go too far one way or too far the other way,” Rash said. “But I started seeing it go too far over the past couple years.”
He said improving the education system would be his first priority.
“We need to look at what schools are doing things right, what things are not doing well and how can we implement the good things across the board and how can we solve some of the negative problems,” he said. “Is it one solution that fixes all? No. It’s a very large ship; it’s going to take a long time to turn around.”
One of his ideas is to incentivize day care centers to better educating young children so they are better prepared for kindergarten.
Rash said he can do a better job building relationships than the often-outspoken Kowalko.
“We haven’t really had what I consider good representation in the 25th District for quite a few years,” he said. “When you are constantly blasting people in public, how do you get people to work with you? It can create an environment where you can’t be very effectively doing what needs to get done as a legislator. I just feel we can do a whole lot better.”
Kowalko, a retired union machinist and community activist who lives on Kells Avenue, was first elected in 2006, defeating longtime incumbent Stephanie Ulbrich. The Democrat has developed a reputation of being unafraid to ruffle feathers, even in his own party.
“The only special interest I’m committed to serving is the people,” Kowalko said. “People say, ‘You’re out there too far.’ Hell, I haven’t even gotten started.”
He accused Rash of running a negative campaign instead of focusing on the issues, which he said is a “wasted opportunity” because the best part of having an opponent is getting to have an exchange of ideas.
“It’s disrespectful to run your entire campaign with negativity,” he said.
Kowalko said that if reelected, he would continue working on improving government transparency by introducing legislation to reform the state’s LLC licensing procedures and once again hopes to remove the University of Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act exemption.
“I think I’m getting closer,” he said, predicting the FOIA legislation would pass if the house leadership allows it to get to the floor.
Kowalko said increasing funding for education remains a priority as well.
“We’re starving the system to death,” he said, adding that, if re-elected, he plans to introduce legislation requiring charter schools to return any unused transportation funding to the state, a move that he estimates would save $1.25 million to $1.5 million each year.
Kowalko also hopes to hold a hearing on the muchballyhooed Bloom Energy deal, which has already cost Delmarva Power customers $200 million and is expected to cost ratepayers another $700 million by 2033.