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Delaware Debates

Photos by Duane Perry

Congressional, gubernatorial candidates face off at UD

Candidates in the state’s congressional and gubernatorial races met at the University of Delaware’s Mitchell Hall on Wednesday evening, Oct. 19, for Delaware Debates 2016, a joint initiative of UD’s Center for Political Communication (CPC) and Delaware Public Media.

The back-to-back debates featured the major-party candidates for governor and for Delaware’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. During both debates, candidates characterized this year’s campaign season in Delaware as issues-oriented and civil, often in stark contrast to the tone of the 2016 presidential race.

“The Delaware candidates for governor and the U.S. House rose to the occasion by sticking to the issues and offering substantive answers to the in-depth questions posed by the panelists,” moderator Nancy Karibjanian, director of the CPC, said after the event. 

The event opened with the gubernatorial debate, which brought together current U.S. Rep. John Carney — a Democrat who is not seeking re-election to his congressional seat — and Republican State Sen. Colin Bonini. The debate was recorded and will air at a later date on C-SPAN.

Bonini and Carney answered questions from Karibjanian and from panelists Lindsay Hoffman, associate professor of communication and of political science and international relations and associate director of the CPC, and James Dawson, political reporter for Delaware Public Media. 

Topics included policies for boosting economic and job growth in Delaware, improving public education, reducing gun violence in Wilmington, addressing climate change and sea-level rise and setting spending priorities in the state budget.

In addition to questions from the panelists, the debate format allowed students at UD and Delaware State University to ask questions via video and members of the public to submit questions online. Those questions raised such topics as legalization of marijuana, the death penalty and initiatives to fight cancer and improve the lives of patients and survivors.

The second debate featured congressional candidates Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, and Republican Hans Reigle answering questions posed by Dawson, Karibjanian and David Redlawsk, the James R. Soles Professor of Political Science and International Relations at UD.

Questions from the panelists included issues of income inequality, global trade, the national debt and federal spending, immigration and border security, gun rights, the Affordable Care Act, Social Security and gridlock in Congress.

In response to questions from students and the public, Reigle and Rochester discussed such topics as climate change, infrastructure and college affordability.

The event marked the fourth biennial Delaware Debates, an initiative that began in 2010. Karibjanian said the project has been successful in promoting civic engagement.

“Months of planning and collaboration go into the debates, and it is source of pride for the Center for Political Communication that they provide a tremendous public service to the people of Delaware as they prepare to make their decisions on Election Day,” she said.  


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