Prescient picks

You likely remember I pulled out my crystal ball and took a somewhat educated guess at how the Delaware primary elections would turn out. If we were doing the old (ladies and) gentlemen’s bet at the WCRCC, I might have vacuumed my fellows’ wallets once again – I even got the order of the GOP governor’s race correct. But there’s more analysis to come.

I’ll begin with the bonus:

My first bonus prediction: at least two sitting Democrat members of the Delaware General Assembly lose in the primary. I can’t tell you just who but I suspect at least one will be a veteran member who loses to a more “progressive” Democrat.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Good thing I said “at least” because it turned out that four lost: Senator David McBride of District 13 and Representatives Ray Siegfried of District 7, John Viola of District 26, and Earl Jacques of District 27 all fell by the primary wayside – and only Viola’s was close as he lost by 43 votes. McBride went down by about 5 points, while the other two cratered to double-digit defeats.

I don’t expect (U.S. Senator Chris Coons, Governor John Carney, or Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro) to lose in the primary to Jessica Scarane, David Lamar Williams, Jr., or Kayode Abegunde, respectively… But watch the margins: anything less than a 50-point win by the incumbents would indicate their support is soft.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Arguably, Coons is within the margin of error of being “soft” since he only won by a 73-27 margin. He could see some percentage of Democrats stay home on Election Day as well as an erosion of Big Labor support as his GOP opponent wages her populist campaign – more on that in a bit. It’s also interesting that his percentage among walk-ups was 13 points lower than from mail-ins.

Even more soft support goes toward Trinidad Navarro, who only won his primary 64-36. Then again, he wasn’t first in alphabetical order and Insurance Commissioner is a race few pay strict attention to. Interesting to me is the fact Kayode Abegunde was somewhat competitive downstate, which suggests it’s a winnable race for a Republican who draws moderate Democrat votes. And in this case, there was only a six-point spread between in-person and mail-in.

On the other hand, Democrats seem to be foursquare for John Carney since he won by a lopsided 85-15 margin. It’s going to be the battle of the nanny state full of Karens taking on the freedom-loving people of the South in Slower Lower Delaware. (Like Coons, though, take note that the margin was quite a bit closer from in-person votes than mail-in – 11 points, to be exact.)

However, with the exception of the U.S. House, it’s possible (and perhaps the most likely outcome) that we could have an all-female GOP contingent come November.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Turned out it was the outcome. We have a Democrat party with three white guys, a white woman, and a black woman taking on four queens (in a playing card sense.) Alas, Lee Murphy isn’t Jack Murphy because that would be a natural. Thanks to the primary we have more women remaining for November than men, so I want to hear no more whining about how women are underrepresented.

I’ll begin with the GOP House race… Two years ago Murphy lost in stunning fashion to the tree-killing campaign of one R. Scott Walker, but I think this time Lee gets the brass ring. It feels like a 60-40 type race to me, so I’ll figure Murphy 61, Morris 39. I would not be surprised, however, to see this be a 10-15% undervote compared to the governor’s race.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

I was well off on this one in that Murphy wasn’t as uninspiring as I believed. Not only did he outperform my guess by a full 13 points (winning in a crushing 74-26 rout) but his race’s undervote was only about 6% compared to the governor’s race.

Another two-person race is the U.S. Senate race, which pits Lauren Witzke against James DeMartino… This is going to be a test to see just how effective a party endorsement can be. I suspect it’s going to be enough for DeMartino to make it a close race but I think Lauren will win in the end by a 52-48 margin. Witzke may have to win this race without much more than token support from her party – there may be a “Republicans for Coons” group out there if she wins because she ties so closely with Donald Trump and surely Delaware has some percentage of #NeverTrump rear guard people out there.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

At one point in the count I thought DeMartino was going to pull the upset. It’s very interesting the disparity between mail-in votes and ballots cast in person in this race. If you looked at the absentee results, DeMartino was comfortably ahead as he got 59% of those cards, so early on it was a race he was leading. Unfortunately for him, the majority of Republicans voted in person and Lauren received nearly 62% of the in-person vote. (I don’t know how much in-person campaigning he did on Election Day but I guess Lauren was all over and it paid off.)

It turned out I was about five points off as Witzke won 57-43. As for the remaining prediction, I’m already seeing the media angle as the Christine O’Donnell theme was prevalent in the coverage as was commentary about Qanon, which obviously is going to become an issue in this race. The slant is in: Witzke is the “controversial” candidate with views out of the mainstream while Coons is the moderate, bipartisan voice of reason – never mind his campaign has been crying “orange man bad” on a daily basis.

And last but not least, the big one:

But I think the turnout for this election will be much better than the usual 15-20 percent… This race has a ton of interest so I believe we may get 50,000 total votes and I don’t see Walker receiving more than about 6-8,000 of them.

If Walker indeed comes to that estimate, he will easily pass two of his competitors – David Graham, who I see at about 5% of the vote, and David Bosco, who seems to be two to three points higher than that. Those kind of numbers may be enough to vault Walker to third place past Bryant Richardson.

All this leaves about 60% of the vote to be split somehow between Julianne Murray and Colin Bonini. Colin got 21,150 votes in his 2016 primary and if he does it again he wins going away…

I know Bonini is hitting the direct mail hard but there’s probably a good percentage of voters who mailed in ballots. Moreover, there’s perhaps the thought that a rematch of a 2016 race where the GOP got smacked by 20 points up and down the line isn’t appealing to these victory-starved voters. So this is how I see the gubernatorial primary coming out: Murray 30, Bonini 28, Richardson 15, Walker 14, Bosco 8, Graham 5.

“Fearless Forecasts,” September 14, 2020.

Overall turnout was 32.26%, which is about unheard of for a Delaware primary. Perhaps having the mail-in option gooses turnout as well, so I don’t think the practice is going away anytime soon.

Scott Walker, in fact, received 3,998 votes. Why I don’t know. And for the longest time he was running neck-and-neck with Bryant Richardson for third place, as I predicted. In fact, I had the order of finish just right – and aside from the top two being so far apart, rather proportional to my guess.

But had the balloting been exclusively mail-in, Colin Bonini would have had his rematch. Out of that group of voters, he won by 6 points but was swamped enough by those who actually showed up to vote that he lost by 6 points. And given the fact that Julianne Murray was the one who got most of the benefit from the open polls – David Bosco also increased his share slightly from mail-in to in-person – it appears that she got most of the late-deciders. I believe the media coverage (and campaign funding) pushed it into a two-way race and voters who were going to go for Richardson or Walker saw the futility of their vote and decided on the outsider. I think that’s why I overestimated their share, although proportionately I wasn’t in all that bad of shape – everyone outside the top two ended up with about half of what I assumed they’d get, except Bosco. Had Dave had more money, he may have pulled enough votes from his fellow outsider Murray to throw the election Bonini’s way – but we will never know.

The only thing I really messed up was in saying Bonini’s 2016 vote total would hold. Murray beat it by about 1,700 votes so I guess I’ll have to buff out that chip in the crystal before November comes.

Fearless forecasts

As my Delaware friends are likely well aware, tomorrow is primary day in the state: Republicans and Democrats will (or perhaps already have, given the misplaced emphasis on mail-in balloting) narrow down their respective fields for Governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House. As an added bonus, Democrats around the state will get to eliminate one candidate for insurance commissioner and several contestants vying in primary battles for local legislative races. (My first bonus prediction: at least two sitting Democrat members of the Delaware General Assembly lose in the primary. I can’t tell you just who but I suspect at least one will be a veteran member who loses to a more “progressive” Democrat.)

Since I’ve already began with the majority party in the state, I may as well continue working through their races. All five statewide Democrat candidates are seeking another term; however, only Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester escaped a primary challenger. The three men running again (U.S. Senator Chris Coons, Governor John Carney, and Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro) weren’t so fortunate.

I don’t expect any of them to lose in the primary to Jessica Scarane, David Lamar Williams, Jr., or Kayode Abegunde, respectively. (Interesting that Democrats would keep three white men and reject a woman and two people of color, eh?) But watch the margins: anything less than a 50-point win by the incumbents would indicate their support is soft. The question at that point would be whether it’s because the incumbents are insufficiently left-leaning for the Democrat electorate or whether rank-and-file Democrats don’t like the incumbent and would be open to the right challenger.

(Worth noting: although the Green Party appears to have ballot access in Delaware, there are no candidates who have filed under that banner. So there is nothing to the left of the Democrats on the November ballot.)

And then we have the Republicans. Out of those same five statewide offices, it’s once again ladies who have the clear path: Donyale Hall for lieutenant governor and Dr. Julia Pillsbury for insurance commissioner. However, with the exception of the U.S. House, it’s possible (and perhaps the most likely outcome) that we could have an all-female GOP contingent come November.

I’ll begin with the GOP House race, which is going to be pretty much a name recognition race. Thanks to some health issues and a lack of funding, Matthew Morris is probably not well-known enough to defeat Lee Murphy. Two years ago Murphy lost in stunning fashion to the tree-killing campaign of one R. Scott Walker, but I think this time Lee gets the brass ring. It feels like a 60-40 type race to me, so I’ll figure Murphy 61, Morris 39. I would not be surprised, however, to see this be a 10-15% undervote compared to the governor’s race.

Another two-person race is the U.S. Senate race, which pits Lauren Witzke against James DeMartino. If campaigns were based on how hard candidates worked, it would be no contest – and it still may not be. But I get a lot of undertones out of this race, for two reasons.

One is the Christine O’Donnell factor, which I believe was the reason Lauren did not get the GOP endorsement despite outraising DeMartino and arguably building a lot more name recognition in the state. I believe the Republican party regulars were spooked by a candidate who espoused populist rhetoric like Donald Trump and came from a very questionable background. (In that respect she was similar to Matthew Morris, but his background is not nearly the factor in his race.)

The second is a platform which would, in some aspects, be perceived as well to the right of average Delaware voters yet also depended on a constituency not accustomed to voting GOP: blue-collar union workers. In fact, that comes in more as a general election strategy because many of those workers remain as registered Democrats and can’t help Lauren get through the primary.

This is going to be a test to see just how effective a party endorsement can be. I suspect it’s going to be enough for DeMartino to make it a close race but I think Lauren will win in the end by a 52-48 margin. Witzke may have to win this race without much more than token support from her party – there may be a “Republicans for Coons” group out there if she wins because she ties so closely with Donald Trump and surely Delaware has some percentage of #NeverTrump rear guard people out there.

And then we have the governor’s race on the Republican side.

My friend Chris Slavens wrote a social media post with his thoughts on the GOP race and his analysis is very sound. In fact, R. Scott Walker is a wild card in this race since he did pick up over 19,000 primary votes for Congress last time around.

But I think the turnout for this election will be much better than the usual 15-20 percent and people who voted for Walker last time out in a two-person midterm race against an uninspiring candidate may have a different choice in mind this time around. This race has a ton of interest so I believe we may get 50,000 total votes and I don’t see Walker receiving more than about 6-8,000 of them.

If Walker indeed comes to that estimate, he will easily pass two of his competitors – David Graham, who I see at about 5% of the vote, and David Bosco, who seems to be two to three points higher than that. Those kind of numbers may be enough to vault Walker to third place past Bryant Richardson.

All this leaves about 60% of the vote to be split somehow between Julianne Murray and Colin Bonini. Colin got 21,150 votes in his 2016 primary and if he does it again he wins going away. But I don’t see that because, while Lacey Lafferty in 2016 was a sort of precursor to the type of candidate Lauren Witzke is this year (in a completely different race), Julianne Murray is not running a populist Trumpian campaign. Traditional Republicans, especially in Sussex County, may also peel off their former Bonini support to his fellow Senator Richardson – I think Bryant’s presence in the race takes away far more from Bonini than anyone else so you can take that 15% out of Colin’s column. If so, suddenly Bonini’s at 27% and he’s a loser.

I know Bonini is hitting the direct mail hard but there’s probably a good percentage of voters who mailed in ballots. Moreover, there’s perhaps the thought that a rematch of a 2016 race where the GOP got smacked by 20 points up and down the line isn’t appealing to these victory-starved voters. So this is how I see the gubernatorial primary coming out: Murray 30, Bonini 28, Richardson 15, Walker 14, Bosco 8, Graham 5.

We’ll probably know late Tuesday night whether my crystal ball is prescient or cloudy. But I’ll be glad to clear my sidebar and start working in other candidates to my dossiers.

2020 federal dossier: Intangibles

This is the final part of a ten-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, intangibles are only worth 5 points – unlike other parts, however, these points can be subtractive as well. Intangibles are items like issues that I don’t cover, their websites, how they are running their campaign, and so forth.

Again, instead of a randomized order I will begin with the two House contenders then do the Senate. At the end of each I will make my endorsements for the Republican nomination.

Matthew Morris (House)

A significant part of Matthew’s campaign has to do with prison reform, which is obviously something he’s familiar with since he served time a few years ago. It also goes with opioid abuse, which is a hot topic among all the GOP contenders this time around. These tip the scales a little bit on the intangibles, but not nearly as much as the idea of legalizing marijuana.

The other key point in his favor is his willingness to engage with people, including this blogger. He’s been pretty good about answering questions, even if I’m generally in disagreement.

There are a few negatives about his campaign; however, I think they can be chalked up to a steep learning curve in a statewide race. His first two volunteers should have been a web designer and a scheduler/manager; instead, I think Matt’s trying to do it all himself and that’s hard for a local race – let alone statewide. At a time when the GOP could use local candidates, he opted for a federal run – although given the field it may not have seemed a bad choice at the time.

Overall, on issues I care about I think Matthew would only be marginally better than the incumbent on some and a decent improvement on others. But when you consider the level of retail politics he’s used to and the fact most of the state representatives in his area are unopposed in the general, perhaps he had a better shot trying to unseat his state representative than a sitting member of Congress.

Lee Murphy (House)

Like his primary opponent, Lee keeps opioid abuse at the forefront of his campaign. Aside from that, though, he keeps things rather close to the vest: it’s telling that I had to dig out some nuggets of information.

After a decent start, the lines of communication between the Murphy campaign and me have become a bit strained. I think we work at cross purposes.

One thing Lee has going for him is that he has run a statewide campaign. But the strike against him is that he’s not run a successful statewide campaign and the person he lost in said statewide campaign to is generally the butt of political jokes for his colorful personality and party-jumping skills. Obviously Lee has lost some races in hopeless situations, but this one was like fumbling at the five-yard line on the way to the winning touchdown.

This is a race where a prominent Republican could have made a difference, but instead everyone and their brother decided to try for Governor. We’re left with a rather weak field, but of the two Republican candidates presented Lee Murphy is the better choice.

James DeMartino (Senate)

I found this to be an interesting approach, which is the lone intangible I noted for James: “Since 2010, our party has been divided. I will mend the divide and unite our party in November. The choice is clear, integrity over deceit.”

“In Delaware we need balance and cooperation from both sides and listen to the people. The silent majority must be heard. As candidate for U.S. Senate, I’m listening.”

This brings out several reactions.

First of all, to note that the party has been divided since 2010 is a direct indictment of the TEA Party (which is the real silent majority these days) and it shows that the takeover wasn’t quite completed in Delaware. In part, this stems from the DEGOP making pre-primary endorsements – let the voters make up their own mind and the division goes away.

And then we have the “integrity over deceit” comment. Who did the deception, and what proof does DeMartino have? Those are weighty words to toss around.

Then we have the cooperation from both sides bromide, which means we cave and they get what they want because they don’t stop while those on our side try and live our lives. That is garbage. The key is to convince those who nominally support the other side to do what’s best for all of us (that being increased liberty), not what’s best for maintaining the power of those people who are using the working stiffs as pawns.

James talks a good game, but he’s run such a low-energy campaign targeted to the hardcore party faithful that if he manages to win the primary there’s zero enthusiasm for him and Chris Coons walks right over him. I seldom hear of a DeMartino appearance to meet voters or get an update on social media: over the first two weeks of August Jim has updated his social media six times and made one campaign appearance. Compare that to his opponent who has that many updates and more each day.

Maybe the “party over everything” crowd is okay with that but average Republicans aren’t, hence DeMartino’s past results where he trailed the party standardbearers.

He’s also the one candidate who has not responded to my repeated questions on issues, so it has to be asked how that will translate to constituent service. I may be a rather unique constituent, but I am a Delaware resident nonetheless.

In short, he lost points on intangibles with me.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Lauren is not shy about expressing her opinion. Perhaps that’s not quite the standard temperament for the Senate, but it seems to work for Ted Cruz.

Out of a lot of interesting statements to consider in this category, I’m picking out two.

“So far the righteous anger and frustration conservatives have felt over the years, has only been channeled to only result in tax cuts and deregulation rulings in favor of the socially progressive billionaire class – A billionaire class that looks down upon and views anyone on Main Street America, the American worker, or any social conservative (for that matter) with contempt.”

She is correct to a point; however, I believe the tax cuts and deregulation have improved the lot for all of us. Billionaires are in a better position to prosper, but bear in mind that they have written many of the regulations in order to tamp down potential competition. So deregulation defeats their purpose.

Secondly:

“I reject Bernie’s socialist ideology. But I understand why my generation seems to embrace it. Crippling student loan debt, unaffordable healthcare, unemployment, addiction, low wages, and in-achievable home ownership for the younger generation has become a stagnant norm.

When a socialist candidate provides solutions to their current problems, we’d be fools to believe they won’t embrace it. We have a serious battle ahead of us against a radical socialist takeover.”

What we need to do is properly educate Millennials that what the Bernie/Biden brigade is promising is fool’s gold, the value of which will indebt their grandchildren’s grandchildren to a one-world tyranny where they will be cogs in the machine unless blessed by birth to be in the ruling class. The rest will suffer the serfdom of the Dark Ages.

It’s where I depart from Lauren’s big-government philosophy, because regardless of the intentions of big government, in the end it only succeeds in reducing our liberty.

However, there are two things Lauren is doing very well in this campaign: nationalizing her race (which is a must in an uphill battle like this) and engaging voters at a far more frenetic pace than either her primary opponent or the Democrat incumbent. (However, he will simply bombard the airwaves with 30 second commercials about “orange man bad” and call it engagement. That’s the advantage of a seven-figure war chest Lauren doesn’t have.) And while I don’t agree with her embrace of Big Labor, that overture does make an inroads into her opponent’s core constituency.

So based on her attractive positions regarding education, 2A issues, and immigration, I can overlook the shortcomings on other issues because, quite frankly, I don’t see anything from pale pastels from her opponent and this is an election where bold colors are needed. For Republicans, Lauren Witzke is my recommended choice.

Now I’m going to clear my docket with an odds and ends post before resuming the dossier series with the governor’s race.

2020 federal dossier: Role of Government

This is the ninth part of a ten-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, role of government is the largest slice of the pie, worth 14 points. 

In this instance, I’m providing an overview of how I see the candidate serving as a member of the House or Senate. Instead of a randomized order I will begin with the two House contenders then do the Senate.

Matthew Morris (House)

Out of the four Republicans being considered to represent Delaware I would place Morris farthest to the left, perhaps even a little left of center. One thing I found admirable, though, is his devotion to be a representative.

“By holding town hall meetings across the state of Delaware, I will be able to hear the wants and needs of my constituents.  I will dedicate time to chair in person town hall meetings to speak to the constituents of the State of Delaware to ensure your voices are being heard.”

This comes from his experience organizing town hall meetings around his home region; however, I’d be really interested to see how his reception in the Laurel area where I live would be, as it’s very rural and conservative. So I’m not sure he could be truly representative of our views, and the question is more whether he could be persuasive enough to bring people to his side from the right. You see, when he talks about Millennials’ “abilities to think outside of the box, and reach across party lines to discuss true resolution” I think of how many times Republicans have reached across the aisle only to be beaten to a pulp with the bloody stump the Democrats ripped off. (If it truly worked both ways, we would still have somewhat limited government, and we don’t.)

The problem for Republicans trying to run in that lane is that liberal voters seldom vote for anything but the real thing. Know your opponent: she is a black Democrat who can get by with pretending to be centrist because she gets the cover of being a little short of Squad-left. But she’s very good at playing up the first woman to represent Delaware angle for all its worth.

Lee Murphy (House)

Lee is a very lucky guy. I don’t see him as a doctrinaire conservative; fortunately, in comparison to his opponent, running right down the center stripe can make Lee look like the second coming of Ronald Reagan and that may be good enough for Delaware Republicans. But then again…

One thing I did prior to writing this part was to look up where Lee stood on issues two years ago when he had a primary against a guy who had run as a Democrat two years prior and nailed illegal signs to trees, and lost. (I like that the internet is forever and he recycled the “gomurph” website. Because of this, I’ve supplemented some previous parts of this over the weekend.) I think he’s shifted a little bit to the left between 2018 and 2020.

As a Congressman, Lee would likely be one of those who we would like for about half his votes and wonder what he was thinking with the other half, particularly with the environmental issues. If he’s fortunate enough to prevail, he almost seems to me like a short-timer who would maybe get through a term or two, not passing anything that would be memorable for how it brought government to heel as it needs to be. In reading his platform and interacting with his campaign, Lee doesn’t come across as the stout conservative we need but more as the Republican whose most agreeable vote every two years may well be for Speaker of the House.

James DeMartino (Senate)

Here’s what I read:

“The two original documents, Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution both based upon God given certain inalienable rights to every and all individuals, establish the American system of government. Our government exists to protect our God given rights. I am a firm believer and supporter in our Constitution’s fundamental principles of limited government, separation of powers, individual liberty and the rule of law.”

Okay, so far so excellent. But then I cued up the tire screech of a car coming to a sudden stop:

“Our rights: freedom of speech, religion, the right to bear arms and the right of the people to be secure are not subject to interpretation by public opinion but rather by the Supreme Court.”

Wait, what…? (sighs) Not that old Marbury v. Madison trick again. You’re telling me inalienable rights endowed by our Creator are subject to the whims of nine people, some of whom believe the Constitution is as relevant and useful as the type of toilet paper they use? Ummm, no, these rights are non-negotiable. So I didn’t care as much about the next statement because I wasn’t quite sure he meant it:

“I will support the nomination of judges that interpret the constitution as written and intended by our founding fathers. The federal government exists to protect our rights as American citizens…It is time the federal government returns to a limited government relinquishing control of everyday life back to ‘We the People.'”

Yet I read through the dossier I’ve started on James and identified at least a half-dozen instances where he’s advocating for more government. My concern is that he would drift leftward like most Republicans do, and the fact he’s made more overtures toward the party faithful (the old “party over everything” crowd) than the rank-and-file Republicans leaves me concerned.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Compared to DeMartino and his questionable overtures toward limited government in citing the Constitution, we know where Lauren Witzke stands. She fits squarely into the mold of the “big-government conservative” and that strain of populism needs to be eyed suspiciously and kept in check wherever possible.

Those who inhabit Lauren’s corner of the political world are unapologetic about using government to achieve their ends, which to them justifies the means. If the size of the welfare program doesn’t change but the focus shifts to rewarding a different type of behavior, such as having kids in wedlock instead of out of wedlock, it’s considered a success.

This has always been an argument I fail to comprehend: a politician like Lauren believes the government is spending the money regardless of whether it achieves the goals of social conservatives, isolationists, and other strains of populist or not, so we are better off in spending it our way. Of course, the third option they don’t consider is that of bringing government closer to the people by letting states decide how they want to address issues (and spending less in the meantime.) Given their long-term decline in population, perhaps states in the Rust Belt would be very amenable to the style of family-friendly incentives Lauren is proposing at a federal level – something a place like Texas or Florida may not wish to embrace. But one size fits all to Uncle Sam, amirite?

I get that Lauren’s electoral strategy is to nationalize the race by tying herself to Donald Trump and advocating for his no-holds-barred approach to government. It’s just how Trump picked up the union blue-collar vote nationally and how Lauren hopes to spring the upset by attracting the union Democrats who help run New Castle County. It might just work, but is this what America needs in the long run?

With that, I have nearly reached the end of my look at these candidates. It’s comprehensive to be sure, but there are other things which have slipped through the cracks that I consider as part of my final piece: the intangibles.

2020 federal dossier: Entitlements

This is the eighth part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, entitlements are worth 13 points. And in case you are wondering, I don’t get along with the “it’s our money that we’re only getting back” crowd – to me, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are entitlements. Here’s where I will see what the candidates have to say.

It’s become an annual rite of sorts – it seems like every year we hear the news that Social Security and Medicare are projected to take in less than they give out years sooner than projected. We’re assured they’re not going to go bankrupt but there may come a point where they won’t be able to meet the promised benefits. (That always seems to be just about the time I am eligible to collect.)

The fix is relatively simple, they say: ratchet up the retirement age, begin means testing, or place more income inside the reach of the Social Security tax (which caps someplace in the low six figures.) On the other hand, we have a President who earnestly believed a booming economy would solve the problem. All I know is that something will be done in the next few years because doing nothing will be its own action, with consequences.

Unfortunately, this is a subject that is indeed treated like a third rail in that no one wants to touch it, despite the fact all have been asked for their thoughts on the subjects. Perhaps because he’s eligible for these programs, the only lengthy response so far among the Republicans is from James DeMartino, and he focuses mostly on Obamacare, which has also become an entitlement (although that’s in a large degree due to its significant reliance on Medicaid to insure the working poor.)

“As a nation we require a robust healthcare system; doctors, nurses, medical facilities, equipment and pharmaceuticals that are truly affordable to individuals and small business,” writes the DeMartino campaign. “Small businesses have struggled due to the cost of insurance and individuals have suffered financially due to exorbitant premiums and deductibles. We need insurance companies to provide effective coverage and competitive pricing. Government bureaucracy cannot control healthcare, medical decisions must be made by medical professionals. Individuals and their doctors should be in control of their own care.  Individuals should be able to select the coverage they need and know what they are paying for with itemized bills.”

I’m going to foreshadow my thoughts on the next part regarding the role of government here by stating some unpopular opinions.

The problem with the DeMartino approach isn’t the end goal, but the approach. As I see it, there is an implication by James that we need a federal solution to a problem they created when in fact health insurance is one of those commodities best handled at a state level. The needs of Florida and its high retiree population are vastly different than a state like Maryland which trends younger.

It should have been a priority in the previous Congress to rip out Obamacare by the roots, but instead our side fumbled it away. I’ve heard the argument that most of the program was rendered moot by Congress removing the tax penalty (putting it outside the boundaries of NFIB v. Sebelius) but nothing would have sent the message more clearly than a straight repeal. We also kicked the other entitlement cans down the road thanks to a lack of emphasis on a fix from the top.

Seeing how gutless Congress is on these subjects, and having a long memory of the reception a modest proposal on Social Security received (remember George W. Bush wishing to privatize a fraction of it?) it’s frankly disappointing to see no new ideas from the field. Again foreshadowing, I’m not sure the GOP portion of the Congressional field wishes to rightsize government. It’s more the approach of making government perhaps run more efficiently but not trying to restore a more Constitutional approach.

After I posted this originally I found Lee Murphy‘s 2018 website in the internet archives, so I think I can add this pearl of wisdom to the discussion:

“The government needs to get out of the health insurance business once and for all. Competition should drive the market for health insurance, not mandates from the federal government. I believe that individuals are best equipped to make health insurance decisions for their families.”

I like that, so far. But there’s more.

“The citizens of this country should be offered a competitive choice for health insurance plans. I support legislation allowing families to buy health insurance across state lines. It would drive down the cost of health insurance, making it more affordable and more accessible. If you live in Delaware and a better plan is available in Nebraska, you should be able to buy it.”

That’s been a standard GOP line for awhile, but there’s a lot of merit to it – and it’s a start to what needs to be a lengthy adult discussion.

I’m going to share my thoughts on the candidates and how they seem to perceive the role of government in my next, penultimate part.

2020 federal dossier: Foreign Policy

This is the seventh part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, foreign policy is worth 12 points. I have three parts remaining before I reveal how the Republican candidates have scored so far.

It ties in well with the previous categories of immigration and trade, but to me foreign policy is more than that. As long as we have troops in harm’s way, support of the military will be a key aspect of our desired policy as well as a stance that considers our interests first, not the vague wishes of some global organization. I’d like us to be a nation which treats its friends like royalty and isn’t afraid to spit in the eye of our enemies.

It’s perhaps not surprising that I have only received the most meaningful input from our Senatorial candidates since they have the most to do with foreign policy in terms of approving treaties and such. However, the House is important as well because they are supposed to have the power of the purse.

So let’s start on this road, and it works out that my two “America First” candidates go first.

Matthew Morris (House)

At the tail end of his issues page, Matthew thunders, “We have to put an end to Globalist interests that are taking away from the American Dream, and that starts with putting AMERICA FIRST.” I just wish I knew what he meant: does he agree in lockstep with my next aspirant?

Yet he has a softer side too, noting the other day his willingness to extend foreign aid to victims of disaster like the luckless people who were affected by the Beirut explosion.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Lauren is advocating for a very isolationist foreign policy, to wit: “Our military will be strengthened but used strictly for the defense of our nation at home. She will not support meddling in the affairs of foreign nations, and rejects regime change abroad. Foreign aid will be ended except in the events of natural disasters, and funds will be re-diverted towards Family Restoration efforts and American infrastructure.” Another way she puts it: ending the “forever wars.”

However, there is a contradiction there to something else she’s noted on social media: “Christianity is increasingly under attack in the United States and Europe. When I’m in the U.S. Senate, these attacks will not be taken lightly!” In the case of Europe, isn’t that meddling in their affairs?

Look, I’m actually for defunding the UN (and not our police departments, as she’s also written) but either you’re hands off or you’re the world’s policeman. Our foreign policy over the last 80 years or so has tended toward the latter thanks to our involvement in “entangling alliances” like NATO and others.

I give Lauren mad credit for one thing, though: she knows who the enemy is in more ways than one: “If Chris Coons and his Democrat allies weren’t busy crafting their fake ‘Russian Collusion’ narratives, our lawmakers could have focused on the real national threat from China, which has cost us not only the lives of 80,000 (at the time she wrote it, now closer to double that) Americans but untold trillions of dollars in economic damage.”

Lee Murphy (House)

I have gone through most of what I have seen from Lee and haven’t found a comment on the issue. I’m sure he has opinions to share, though.

James DeMartino (Senate)

In looking at DeMartino’s approach, I get the impression it’s “steady as she goes.”

I think he edges more toward the “world’s policeman” side, though. While he begins by saying, “We must continually maintain the strongest, best equipped and trained military in the world,” he then notes, “As a country, we must provide world leadership to protect human rights worldwide and reduce the horrific occurrence of human trafficking.”

It seems to me dealing with human trafficking is a job for law enforcement, a place where international cooperation would do us good. But is that enough of a priority that it gets mentioned so prominently?

He adds, “We must support our allies around the world and continue to strengthen our bonds of freedom, democracy and humanity with Israel.” I can agree with that one.

I also believe I heard James extolling his military and legal background as being advantageous for dealing with treaties, which indeed is a Senate job in the rare case they get one to address. So there is that, too.

We are closing in on the final three categories in this federal sweepstakes. The next one I have is entitlements. Sure, the people want Social Security and Medicare fixed but have these fine folks spoken out about it?

2020 federal dossier: Immigration

This is the sixth part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, immigration is worth 11 points.

In perhaps the most extreme category so far, this subject has been the main focus of one of my Republican candidates, yet basically ignored by another. This study in contrasts should make for an interesting file within the dossier.

Over the last sixty years we have gradually opened up the spigots on immigration after a comparative freeze during the middle of the twentieth century – a time we were preoccupied by war and economic depression. But reforms in 1965 and 1986 have created a ping-pong ball of sorts as we bounce between the interests of Democrats (as well as their GOP-backing Chamber of Commerce allies) who want more free and unfettered immigration against the border hawks who want to secure the borders and limit the influx, whether as a pause or more permanently – returning closer to a stance we had after our large wave of immigration in the early 1900s when we became very selective about who got in.

So what do the Republicans running here in Delaware think? (Eventually they’ll be joined by the rest on the ballot.) Again, the order is randomized but it worked out well in this case.

Matthew Morris (House)

Having a relatively sparse website and focusing most on other issues like prison reform and the opioid crisis, I really haven’t seen where Matthew stands on immigration. Like any of the candidates, he is certainly welcome to let me know privately or publicly by leaving a comment here.

Lee Murphy (House)

What Matthew has to contend with is an interesting hodgepodge of ideas made on Lee’s issues page, where he states, “Congress has shirked their responsibility to find a permanent solution to our nation’s Border Crisis. I will support Customs and Border Patrol and ICE in their efforts to protect our sovereignty. I will support legislation that addresses the visa, permanent resident, and citizenship issues of those who wish to pledge allegiance to our nation legally. We must stop politicizing this national crisis.”

As I noted up top, Congress has “shirked their responsibility” because the issue has been a ping-pong ball for a half-century. Supporting Customs, Border Patrol, and ICE is nice (and necessary) but the second part of the statement leads me to believe Lee is in the “pathway to citizenship” camp that would reward those who came illegally at the expense of those who came the correct way as well as encourage more illegal border crossings – while the southern border has the reputation for being the conduit for illegal immigrants, in reality the larger proportion are those who overstay their visas. In either case, a path to citizenship should begin by them returning home.

In finding his 2018 campaign website among the internet archives, I found my suspicions were correct, to wit:

“Immigrants should be encouraged to come to the United States based on merit and a willingness to be assimilated into our culture.” This was the basic reason most immigrants came here 100 years ago, yet despite the latter many who couldn’t prove their worth were turned away.

But in looking at Lee c. 2018 this was the kicker:”Illegal immigrants who have lived in our country for years and who have been working or serving in the military should pay the penalty for breaking the law, as would any U.S. citizen. After paying the penalty, illegal immigrants should, if they meet all the requirements, be offered a pathway to citizenship. This will help ensure that families of illegal immigrants can stay together, protecting the innocent. The children of illegal immigrants who are born in America should, as U.S. citizens, retains all their rights as citizens per the Constitution.”

That’s a loophole which needs to be closed, pronto.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Honestly I could write half the night on Lauren and immigration. Sometimes I think she does.

Ask yourself, though: how many candidates for office in Delaware take a field trip to the Mexican border? She has. So to say this is her primary issue would be to sound like Captain Obvious.

Some of her ideas: a full 10-year moratorium on immigration, meaning we net zero immigrants (so immigants equal emigrants – although that number of emigrants will supposedly be pretty high if Trump wins again), ending DACA and commencing the deportation of DACA recipients, ending chain migration and birthright citizenship, and placing more restrictions on work visas. The result, she claims, would be that, “Delawareans and the rest of America will see a rise in wages, and American college students will compete in the labor market without being put at a massive disadvantage. This plan relies on the basic principles of supply and demand, and common sense. Beltway elites seem to understand neither.”

Obviously this is a harder line than most in Congress would take, so I imagine progress on her agenda would be slow and may take multiple election cycles as the Senate only changes partially each time. But then again, perhaps it’s time someone drags things in that direction.

James DeMartino (Senate)

Perhaps knowing his competition, Jim has this as his immigration platform: “We are a nation of immigrants. As Americans we all benefit from each other’s skills and culture resulting in today’s America, the greatest country in the world. That is why our borders are flooded with foreign nationals. However, to protect our culture, our citizens and our way of life, we have immigration laws. These laws are designed to protect our country and our citizen’s health, welfare and businesses. The law must be enforced! Controlling our borders, supporting the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is imperative. The United States is a sovereign country and must not allow open borders.”

The problem with this statement is that I don’t see the “fierce resistance” to amnesty that Lauren seems to have. Perhaps it’s a break for James that the Wuhan flu and BLM strife has pushed immigration aside as a key issue, but there are still many millions who would like to see a more America-centered resolution than what we’re being presented with here. It’s very pale pastels compared to Witzke’s bright colors.

Again, I’m looking at a rather sparse subpart to the dossier next as we consider foreign policy. Despite the fact our actual military operations may be winding down, we have a lot of adversaries to contend with and I want to know how they prefer to deal with them.

2020 federal dossier: Energy and Taxation

This is the fifth part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, energy is worth 7 points and taxation is worth 10 points.

In returning to my dossier series after a week away, I have run into a couple of my problem children. Seeing that the candidates don’t seem to be as concerned about these issues as I am and wishing to kick start this process back up, I opted to combine the two categories into one post. I’ll begin with energy, which was supposed to be one of last week’s topics but it turns out that no one really gets into the subject. (If a candidate does, it’s either not on their site or it’s part of a much longer-form interview.)

So I asked the questions directly of the candidates: in the case of energy I wanted to know their takes on renewables, offshore drilling, and ethanol subsidies. To date I have received responses from the House contenders but not the Senate ones. I’ll again go in random order, but some will be very short.

James DeMartino (Senate)

I have not received a response to any of my questions from the DeMartino campaign, which is unfortunate because much of what he speaks to about issues ranges between boilerplate and platitudes. Must be the lawyer in him, but for me it’s frustrating.

Matthew Morris (House)

While I’m sure he’s not going to fully embrace the Green New Deal, in his (rather lengthy) response to my query, he noted that, “When it comes to renewable energy, I am most liberal in my views. The planet is a living organism and we are but small parasites.” Making the case that he could reach across party lines, Morris believed he could, “create an alliance in the preservation of our planet and renewable energy.”

The other departure from GOP orthodoxy came in his opposition to energy exploration, calling offshore drilling and expanded fracking, “unnecessary at this point, especially if we have the resources to end it.” Of course, the problem with that approach is that we need more resources to replace those which become less economically viable. I’m not sure I understand the logic, but then again Morris argues that, “the only reason people have bought into the ideology is because they’ve been manipulated by big oil.”

As we all know, I prefer my energy cheap and reliable. If Big Oil can give me that I’m perfectly happy with it. The planet is pretty resilient.

Lee Murphy (House)

Based on his answer I suspect we may learn more about the Murphy plan should he win the primary, but I believe he’s trying to appease the middle with the campaign’s response, “(T)rust us when we tell you that Lee Murphy is the most evolved Republican in the state with his desire for a clean environment through incentives, not regulations and imposed costs. He wants all of us to be able to drink from the rivers in Delaware, which will take a while, even with Lee’s kind of leadership.”

In and of itself, that’s interesting. But I wonder if he’s tilting himself too far in the balance between energy and environment, similarly to Morris. I also noticed Lee’s campaign doesn’t actually address energy issues as presented, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that the “information” he has will also address energy in some manner.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Although Lauren has been active on social media, this isn’t a topic which she’s addressed directly. However, I seem to have a more open line of communication with her campaign so I may well yet have an answer. I have my hunch how it may play out, but I will hold the prediction in abeyance for now.

Now I’m going to switch gears and tackle taxation.

My initial query has been along the lines of thoughts on the Trump tax cuts, but the only short answer I received so far has come from Matthew Morris, who noted, “Trump’s tax cuts have their pros and cons. I have an absolute understanding the working middle class will always get the brunt of the taxation because they’re the majority by a landslide.” (He also added later his desire to legalize marijuana, which would presumably be used as a small revenue source as well.)

The bulge in the middle is true when it comes to the present situation, but the recent passing of Herman Cain reminds us there are other revenue ideas out there besides Mary Jane. Cain was most famous for the 9-9-9 plan, which was a combination where the income tax rate for all payers, the business tax rate, and a national sales tax would all be 9%. Presumably the belief was that the lower income tax rate would put more take-home money in paychecks, the lower business tax rate would improve profitability and encourage investment, and any resulting shortfall to the federal treasury would be made up by the new sales tax, which would add $9 to an item costing $100. (This is a similar idea to the FairTax, which has long been a consumption-based tax proposal.) Cain’s hybrid system would have limited the dependence of the government on income tax and spread the burden more equally as opposed to the steeply progressive and complicated tax system we have now.

So I would love to have the candidates enhance their take on it, either by message or by comment here.

With the exception of one quarter, I have no shortage of information on the next topic, which will be immigration.

2020 federal dossier: Trade and Job Creation

This is the fourth part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, trade and job creation is worth 9 points.

According to the Caesar Rodney Institute, which defines itself as a “Delaware non-profit committed to protecting individual liberty,” the state’s economic status is in a long-term decline, so this category is important for our federal legislators to keep in mind. They obviously have input on our trade policy and hopefully are in tune with the idea that government can create the conditions which enhance opportunity. (Aside from limited jobs in creating and maintaining federal infrastructure, the government seldom creates jobs with actual value like, say, an oil derrick worker, a guy on the line at Jeep, or an architect who works with the private sector.)

Once again I’m doing this in a random order, with Republicans first in line and, once the primary is over, those representing other parties on the Delaware ballot.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Out of all she has said on the subject (and there is a lot!) there are two lines which I think best sum up her philosophy:

“Get me to Washington to ensure we rebuild American industrial might and promote FAIR trade! Let’s Make America Great Again and put America and her workers first!”

“I commit to supporting our unions, their right to collective bargaining, and incentivizing companies to hire American.”

Let’s look at these one at a time. I believe in free trade, but to make trade truly free we have to get it to be fair first. To do that, we need to have sensible tariffs until an overall balance is reached. While that may smack of protectionism, the idea is that we use the time to build up our competitiveness, not coast and make Trabants. Where we need the cattle prod is to insure improvement – if companies want to be part of the American rebirth, they must work quickly to be competitive.

Where I definitely part with Lauren is her blind support of organized labor. I believe in the right to work because it’s proven to be a job creator (companies prefer to locate in right-to-work states and jurisdictions) and it makes the union sell itself to the employees – they have to give a good reason and return on investment to workers who can forgo membership in an open shop. There are unions in right-to-work states so some must succeed in convincing employees and employers that they are fair bargaining agents.

I think a national right-to-work law would be a good thing, but it is an overreach on state’s rights. By the same token, there should be no federal prohibition on the right for states to mandate open shops.

James DeMartino (Senate)

I think James embodies a very sensible approach with his statement:

“I will work to create an environment that promotes free enterprise and not hinder growth with excessive and stifling regulations that add to the cost of doing business. Regulations must be streamlined so business can run their business and not continually file government licenses, documents and reports. I will continually discuss with the Governor and State Legislators their needs to promote business growth and expansion within Delaware from technology and infrastructure to development of Port Wilmington as a vibrant and safe port facility.  I will ensure farmers are provided the latest and greatest agriculture enhancements to maximize their output and returns.”

Philosophically it’s very close to the mark; now all we need is more specifics on various items. My only nitpick may be that streamlining regulations (and improving broadband, which he has also brought up) is as much incumbent on the state as it is the federal government, since that rising tide of eliminating regulation on a federal level would lift all the boats, not just ours.

Matthew Morris (House)

In reading through Matthew’s philosophy, it sounds a little bit like Lauren’s – he blames outsourcing for many of our problems. “I’m proposing that these big corporations, they’re going to have to pay a tax if they’re going to outsource their jobs to these foreign companies,” said Morris on social media. “I can’t stress it enough. We need to put America first.” He also vows to bring aquaculture, farming, and manufacturing back to Delaware. (I can vouch for the fact farming never left Slower Lower. Just sit in my living room and watch the traffic go by on my rural road. Or just watch the soybeans and corn grow and the irrigation system circle around. Or walk outside when the wind is the wrong direction and say “smells like Delaware.”)

Anyway, this is something I don’t think people who blame outsourcing think about: why do foreign manufacturers make cars here? Because we have a mature and prosperous market. We can’t just say in a blanket fashion that all outsourcing is bad because foreign companies outsource here, too – indeed, we should try to reclaim what we lost to China, but there are incentives we can present to encourage that may work more effectively than threats to browbeat.

Lee Murphy (House)

Lee doesn’t stray too far from conventional wisdom here, calling for an end to unnecessary regulations and more tax cuts. Pretty standard stuff. He does make the point that, “(i)nstead of passing minimum wage legislation, I will work tirelessly to bring real jobs back to Delaware.” The problem is that he’s left things really open-ended, although I suspect if prodded he can expand farther on these points. If he realizes that the true minimum wage is zero because it’s a job that was never created, then we may be on to something.

In looking at Lee’s previous campaign, I gleaned a lot more information about places he may go. Two years ago he advocated for Delaware to become a motion picture center, noting, “Having been in the motion picture industry for the past 30 years, and having lived and worked in New York and Louisiana, I have seen how, through innovative political leadership, these states have attracted the motion picture industry – and the dozens of related industries that support it – creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in added revenue. This, in turn, creates priceless exposure for their respective states. Why can’t we do the same here?”

Lee also opined in his 2018 campaign that, “Delaware once had a competitive advantage in the banking and payment systems industries. I believe a focused effort on training in coding, artificial intelligence, and database management, coordinated through the University of Delaware, Delaware State and the other fine institutions of higher learning throughout our state, could capitalize on the dynamic fintech and blockchain segments which are here to stay!” Perhaps he needs to bring back these old chestnuts and add them to the conversation.

I’m going to gather a little more information, so the next part may be circling back to energy issues or pressing forward to my next intended part, taxation. Whichever one comes first, it will probably arrive around midweek.

2020 federal dossier: Social Issues

This is the third part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, social issues are worth 8 points.

In days past, I used to consider two aspects when it came to social issues: abortion and gay “marriage.” Unfortunately, the former is still with us and the latter is supposedly “settled law.” (I look at both Roe v. Wade and the Obergefell decision as “settled” in the same vein as the Dred Scott decision or Plessy v. Ferguson were.) So this became more of an abortion question, although one candidate in this field in particular has a deep concern about other issues regarding families.

This was such a rich vein of information that I didn’t need to ask the candidates anything. All the information is gleaned from their websites and social media. Once again, I am presenting this in a random order.

James DeMartino (Senate)

To be perfectly honest, given the trajectory of his campaign and his opponent, this was more of a response to her in as innocent of platitudes as possible than a real stance on social issues. DeMartino states, “The foundation of a strong civilized society is the family. A strong family unit will reduce the ever-growing request for government services. I will propose and support appropriate legislation that will strengthen families financially and incentivize multi-generational households. We must respect, protect and care for our seniors, our youth and the unborn.  Our children require care, guidance and direction from parents not from government agencies.”

He is right in the sense that the family is a foundation, but what I don’t see is the specifics as to how he would help. To some, the idea of strengthening families financially can mean a tax handout when the better solution to me would be to restore the conditions where Mom could stay home with the kids and not be forced to work for the family to survive financially. This would also allow kids to get the “care, guidance, and direction” DeMartino desires.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

This is one of Lauren’s bread-and-butter issues, to a point where she has said way more on the subject than I can summarize in a few paragraphs. Maybe the best way to put it is her saying, “the American Family has been put on the back burner. It has been sacrificed to turn every American into an economic unit, who lives not to serve his or her family or God, but to serve his or her employer and the false idol of GDP…Lauren will pass legislation to further incentivize marriage and child-bearing, thus increasing American birthrates and rebuilding our culture to center it around the American Family.”

So let’s look at this idea. Lauren has noted the example of Hungary, which has created its own incentives for marriage and childbearing with some success. I think it’s a noble idea, but there are two issues I have with it: first of all, it’s not a legitimate function of government at any level to dictate child-bearing (witness the outcry over the years about China’s one-child policy, which led to millions of abortions) nor should the incentives be based on an income tax – more on that in a future edition of the dossier.

It’s been argued that we can’t legislate morality. Witzke also backs a Constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion, which would be the extent of federal involvement I might favor. Until such an amendment is passed – and I’m not holding my breath on that one – abortion should be a state issue.

Lee Murphy (House)

Murphy states right up front, “I am pro-life.” And then he tells me what he is not: “Democrats are advocating for late-term abortion. They are okay with ending a baby’s life at seven, eight and nine months of pregnancy, or even after a child is born. I strongly disagree.”

The slower go comes from this statement, “We should instead provide support to mothers and their families facing hardship, and ensure they have the resources necessary to choose life.” This, to me, puts the federal government in a role in which they don’t really belong. I can buy this a little bit more if he were running for state office – which Lee has a few times over his long, uphill political career – but this is another case where money = strings and I don’t support those.

Matthew Morris (House)

Matthew has engaged with folks on social media regarding this subject, and he has a considerably different take. While Matthew argues he is pro-life, he hides his pro-choice view behind a fig leaf, claiming, “I believe as a man, I do not have a say on this issue.” If you are a defender of life, indeed you do. Perhaps part of that comes from his sexuality, noting “As a gay man, I don’t want people telling me what I can and can not do with my body. It’s just a really touchy subject.”

The trouble I have with that philosophy in the case of abortion is that (in the vast, vast majority of cases) the choice was already made, and another life was created. I believe “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are phrased that way for a reason: you can’t pursue happiness without liberty, and you can’t have liberty without life. So a woman isn’t just choosing her liberty, but also denying the liberty of the baby inside her. If she doesn’t feel she can take care of the child, there are alternatives readily available that would maintain the child’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness with a willing set of parents.

This take is made even more different when he calls for, “Nuclear families, proper resources for implementing pro-social behavioral learning, and funding for community centers to be able to ensure the children growing up in fatherless homes are taken care of as well.” (He grew up in such a home.) Again, this is a more appropriate state-level “ask” than a federal one.

The next portion of this deep dive will look at the topics of trade and job creation.

2020 federal dossier: Second Amendment

This is the second part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, the Second Amendment is worth 6 points. This evening I will place a post at the top with a link to each part of the 2020 dossier series as I place them.

We can almost recite this from memory: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But what are we defining as infringements, and how do Delaware’s candidates look at the issue?

To a person, they will tell you they support the Second Amendment but what do they really mean? Hopefully I will bring a little bit of clarity to this with my post. As I did with education, I’m beginning with the four GOP candidates then working the others on the ballot in after the primary.

Each of them available to me via social media was asked: Since we all want “common sense gun laws,” what would you change about federal gun laws to make them “common sense?” Again, this will be presented in a random order.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Witzke is very expressive about 2A rights, and has a photo on her social media posing with what I’m assuming is an AR-15 or similar weapon. Moreover, she thunders, “The Second Amendment is not up for negotiation. It’s not a bargaining chip to be used by lawmakers to cut deals.” She also correctly states that thanks to the Second Amendment, “our citizenry has the tools to defend itself against rogue tyrants or an overbearing government.”

Unlike her cohorts, she has a strict pledge that she “will vote against every measure that seeks to restrict the Second Amendment, and will pass legislation to take back Americans’ gun rights that have already been usurped by feckless lawmakers of the past.” The second part is really the phrase that pays, although right now she probably doesn’t have enough help to play along in the Senate.

Matthew Morris (House)

Interestingly enough, Morris is the only one of the four Republicans without a specific Second Amendment area on his website. So when I asked him his thoughts, he stated that, “When it comes to 2A you should be able to carry across state lines with no problem. A thorough and rigorous background (check) should be conducted for a federal carry permit.”

Of course, that begs the followup question about whether these same checks should be in place for purchasing weapons; however, I can see merit in the idea of a federal carry permit. Unfortunately, states don’t treat concealed carry permits like they treat driver’s licenses, which are valid wherever you go in the country.

James DeMartino (Senate)

DeMartino has pledged to put up “fierce resistance” to those who would surrender our Second Amendment rights, “like Senator Chris Coons.” Now I know the guy is a former Marine but I don’t know just how fierce the resistance is to moms demanding action. That’s the million-dollar question.

Lee Murphy (House)

Murphy agrees with the platitudes previously expressed regarding protection of the Second Amendment. But he also adds an interesting wrinkle in that, “we should address the root causes of violence and crime in our communities.” I’m not sure if there’s not a troubling implication here that the guns are part of the problem.

A gun is an inanimate tool until someone loads it, picks it up, points it at someone, and fires. All these steps must be followed for criminal gun violence. I think the old adage that “an armed society is a polite society” comes into play here since the vast majority of gun owners have probably never fired their weapon outside of a range and those who have were likely hunting.

I don’t think any of these fine folks will be the same sort of gun grabber that seems to incessantly populate the Democrat side of the aisle. What I’m still seeking clarity on, though, is how well they will fight to regain what we’ve already lost.

My next part was supposed to consider energy issues, which are something not every candidate features on their website or social media. Because of that, I’ll wait a bit to do that part and instead focus on something our candidates are not shy about: social issues.

2020 federal dossier: Education

This is the first part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, education is worth 5 points.

Today I’m comparing and contrasting the four GOP hopefuls for federal office from Delaware on the subject of education. How do they conform to what really needs to occur to improve the educational system? (After the primary, I will supplement this post with the remaining candidates.)

To do the research, I went through each candidate’s website and social media. They were also all asked the following question (with minor variations):

Pretend it’s 2026, you’re running for re-election, and they have followed your prescriptions for the American educational system to a T. How does the system compare to the way it is now, and how did you get them there?

Out of the four Republican federal candidates, I received answers back from three, Matthew Morris, Lauren Witzke, and Lee Murphy. The same question has been asked to the Libertarian and IPOD candidates who are active on social media with campaign sites; but I won’t use their answers until later. (I can basically guess what the platform of the Democrats will be and I don’t like it, so I won’t bother with them.)

The following is a summary of their published platforms, their social media comments, and their direct answers. So as not to advantage one over another, candidates will be presented in a random order.

James DeMartino (Senate)

James portrays himself as “a proponent of home schooling, private and charter schools,” adding that, “The best education is determined and implemented at the local level.” These are admirable goals.

But the problem I begin to run into is when he talks about reducing bureaucracy, improving educational requirements, and teacher support. As a Senator, I’m not sure how he can do this but what I am afraid of is that he will simply call to increase federal aid, which invariably comes with strings attached for everything. Adding these strings in the past has led to the increased bureaucracy.

And shouldn’t teacher support and educational requirements be more of a local and state issue? If I’m to take him at face value – and at the moment I have little choice because this is all he’s said on the subject – then I don’t see him as much improvement over the status quo, let alone moving in the direction we need to go.

Lee Murphy (House)

One thing I found out in asking Lee about his educational stance is that he used to be a teacher, and he “loved it.” So there is that perspective, even if he may be a few years removed.

But he would work to eliminate the federal Department of Education and work to help states like Delaware adopt vouchers and school choice. However, he cautioned that, “You cannot dismantle the entire education and start over, tempting as that is. But Lee is nothing if not realistic. He would do away with Common Core tomorrow, and would empower teachers to do what they do best, and that is to teach!” (I’m presuming that his campaign manager wrote the note, which explains the third person reference.) I think he has a realistic approach, but an aggressive one at the same time.

It goes reasonably well with something he wrote for his 2018 run, which was, “We ought to support our teachers and allow them to do what they do best, which is to motivate, inspire and teach our children, instead of robotically teaching our children how to take standardized tests, like Common Core.” So he hasn’t wavered on that principle.

Matthew Morris (House)

Conversely, in looking at what Matthew wants, there’s not a lot to suggest improvement to the status quo. He wants to “work with educators” and “decrease class sizes” but that’s not a federal job. And what bothers me most is his saying he’s in favor of “providing solid legislation to provide our schools with the proper funding to adequately provide our children with resources to improve their education.” So he’ll throw federal money at the problems.

In directly answering my question, Matthew said that, “our children have received exceptional education.” I disagree.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Lauren’s position is one I love philosophically, but I’m not so sure the practical solution is at hand. She doesn’t believe in platitudes, telling me the public school system “has become an overwhelmed institution that has forsaken classical education and become indoctrination.” Additionally, she calls for the conservative side to “stand firm, and re-engage at all educational levels and areas to stop this radical deconstruction of our nation’s history to suit their draconian narratives.”

Her promise, as expressed in her answer to my question, is to “make it easier for parents to homeschool their children and support charter and private schools.” But then I go back to my criticism of her opponent and note that the federal money comes with strings on everything. Without the assurance that she would go the extra step and truly work to bring things to a local level I can’t completely embrace her ideas. But out of the GOP Senate field she is head and shoulders the better in her approach.

She even scored better when she stated “funding should follow the child” in a more recent post.

As I said, this is just the beginning. The next part will look at a cherished right: the Second Amendment.