Carney to worried Dems: 'Keep doing the right thing'

Delaware Gov.-elect John Carney speaks to East Sussex Democrats Bethany Blue in Lewes about strife of Democrats under Trump and the crossing-the-aisle spirit of Delawareans. Produced by Gino Fanelli

Delaware Gov.-elect John Carney headed south Thursday to Bethany Blues in Lewes, meeting with the Eastern Sussex Democratic Club to discuss policy, Democratic principles and being a Delawarean.

The luncheon, held on Thursday, Jan. 5, brought together a packed restaurant of people presenting their concerns about the economy, the heroin epidemic and their future under a presidency led by Donald Trump with a Republican majority Congress.

Former president of the club Peter Schott said his great hope for Carney’s leadership is to balance the Delaware budget, and to make sure high-income citizens pay their dues.

“We need infrastructure improvement,” Schott said. “There are too many developers building and adding nothing to the infrastructure, and we have too many people with high incomes that are not being taxed heavily enough.”

Carney said he will put people first.

“In Delaware, we’re experiencing the same problems people across the country experiencing,” he said. “It’s a very diverse country, but the challenges are all the same.”

Carney specifically cited a fall of industry in Delaware, including DuPont, which formerly employed upward of 40,000 Delawareans, as well as automobile manufacturing plants. Carney said the future is not in waiting for the next industrial titan to come and pull the economy up from the muck, but to embrace new, small tech startups.

“It’s not going to be the next big thing, but the next 50 things,” he said.

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Specifically, Carney applauded the Downtown Development District Program, a grant funded program which has benefited revitalization efforts in Seaford and Rehoboth Beach, among other towns across the state.

Among the economic issues, Carney discussed was the dilemma of affordable workforce housing in Delaware.

Lewes landowner Rusty Trout expressed concern that Lewes’ current zoning plan excludes affordable housing for workers, and urged Carney to address the issue during his time in office.

“In Sussex County, there’s a constant quest for affordable workforce housing,” Trout said.

Carney said a crucial part of his mission as governor to push an economy that directly benefits low-income communities.

“It’s my mission to create a Delaware that lifts up low-income, and oftentimes minority, neighborhoods,” Carney said.

Eastern Sussex Democratic Club Vice President Joe Sakaduski asked Carney on what he plans to do to address the heroin epidemic across the state. Carney, who said he’s seen family members fall into addiction, said he plans to prioritize making treatment available when addicts are ready to receive it.

“You can’t force an addict to address their addiction, that’s the tricky part about it,” Carney said. “But when an addict is ready to get better, we need to be sure they have a place to turn to, and that treatment is readily available.”

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A common recurring theme of Carney’s Q&A session was concern on the future of Democrats in Trump’s America, with a fear their voices would be stifled.

“You need to tell us, what should we do?” club President Lisa Haupt said. “What do you think we should be doing?”

Carney, while lamenting the hacking of the Democratic National Convention, of which he was a target, and the rise of fake news, urged his fellow party members that the best option is to work together.

“I know there’s a lot of anxiety, and I understand the anxiety,” Carney said. “But we need to work across the aisle, we need to work together to make for a Delaware that we, whether on the right or left, are happy to live in. Things may be hard, and we might not agree with everything the new administration and Congress do, but if we keep doing the right thing, we’re going to be alright.”

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