Gonzalez, Smith competing for open District 22 house seat
Democrat Guillermina Gonzalez and Republican Michael Smith are running to replace the retiring State Rep. Joe Miro in District 22.
The district encompasses an area to the northeast of Newark, including North Star and parts of Pike Creek.
Born in Mexico, Gonzalez came to the United States in 2001 through her job as a marketing executive for ExxonMobile. She later left the corporate world for the nonprofit sector, leading Voices Without Borders and later the Delaware Arts Alliance.
In an interview, she cast herself as a political outsider but noted that politics runs in her family – her grandfather once served as a governor in Mexico.
“In spite of the fact I’m not a politician, I realize what politics is all about – serving people,” said Gonzalez, a resident of Limestone Hills.
She described herself as a “free agent.”
“I’m not a politician, so I can ask the pertinent questions,” she said. “I don’t have an agenda, left or right.”
Gonzalez listed improving education as one of her priorities. She said it concerns her that many families move to Pennsylvania or send their kids to charter schools rather than traditional public schools.
“There’s a disconnect between what people expect and what they receive in regard to public education,” she said.
If elected, she would like to examine education funding and make sure the money is being used efficiently, noting that some schools, particularly in the Christina School District, have low occupancy in their buildings.
“Why is that happening?” she asked. “Can we implement some efficiencies?”
Gonzalez also wants to focus on helping small businesses, adding that the state needs to improve infrastructure and help foster more connections between businesses and local colleges and universities.
“Depending on large corporations is long gone,” she said, noting she believes her business background will help her tackle such issues.
Smith is a Pike Creek native and a graduate of Wilmington Christian School and the University of Delaware. He works as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships at the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences. Previously, he was the director of the now-defunct Greater Newark Economic Development Partnership, which was a partnership between City of Newark, the University of Delaware and the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.
Smith unsuccessfully challenged Miro in the 2014 primary. He also ran Meredith Chapman’s state senate campaign in 2016 and at one time worked for Rep. Mike Castle. He said he and his wife, Christy, feel the state needs a new direction and decided he should throw his hat in the ring.
“We don’t like the way the state is headed and figured we’d show our boys what service is,” Smith said.
The 33-year-old resident of the Village of Meeting House Hill said it’s time for a younger generation to help guide Delaware.
“We need to have new leaders,” he said. “We need to have people step up.”
Smith said he would like to see more vocational and workforce development programs in schools and added that businesses need to be more involved with education.
“We’re not competitive anymore. We keep competing with each other rather than other states,” he said, referring to tension between charter schools and traditional public schools.”
Meanwhile, Delaware needs to turn its attention to growing its economy, he said.
“We have a great opportunity to reinvent what we are and talk about what we want to be when we grow up,” he said. “We’ve dealt with so many social issues but we’re forgetting about the economy.”
Smith said UD’s College of Health Sciences, which focuses on preventative care, is a model for what healthcare should be. If elected, he said, he would work to expand that model, starting by piloting a program for a segment of state employees.