Schwartzkopf and Weeks vie for 14th District win

by Michael Short on October 27, 2010

By Michael Short

The race for the 14th Representative District pits veteran legislator and House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf against political newcomer and local businessman Chris Weeks.

Schwartzkopf, a Democrat, is a former state police captain who headed Troop 7 outside of Lewes. He says he has worked in public service all his life and wants to continue to serve the Coastal Sussex region.

He has been in office for eight years and has been House Majority Leader for two years. He retired from the state police with 25 years of service.

Weeks, a Republican, is running on a platform of smaller, more efficient government. He has a background in business and says that we need to reduce the size of government, cut spending and bring efficiency back to our state government.

Weeks works for Becker Morgan Group in Dover as a business development manager. He founded Booksandcoffee in Dewey Beach and has managed four different hotel/condominium properties.

Both candidates are strong supporters of education and both say we need to wisely care for our environment.

Both pride themselves on integrity and  honesty. Both say they are willing to tell people the truth.  “I might not tell you what you want to hear,” Weeks said.

Both says jobs and the economy are the number one issue. That’s one of the few things that virtually every candidate in the state agrees upon in an election year which is proving surprising at almost every turn.

Weeks has hammered Schwartzkopf on the issue of government growth and tax increases. Schwartzkopf said that some taxes have been raised, but said tax increases were part of a balanced effort to deal with a deficit of more than $800 million.

He said a combination of stimulus money, painful budget cuts and tax increases were used to balance the budget. He said that difficult choices had to be made and that he was willing and able to make the tough choices when needed.

Schwartzkopf said that some 1,000 positions were cut in an effort to balance the budget. Some of those have since been rehired, like 90 teachers because of increased enrollment, but most have not.

“We’ve already cut the low hanging fruit and middle fruit,” he told the audience at a Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce forum.

He told the audience at a League of Women Voters forum that the economic challenges have meant “hard times, hard decisions.”

Weeks says that there is a lack of accountability and efficiency in government. “I think our system of government is broken . . . I fear for my children’s ability to prosper and get good jobs.”

Weeks said the Delaware budget grew from $2.4 billion in 2002 to some $3.3 billion in 2010.  “We have to downsize,” he said at the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber forum.

“We throw money at a problem,” he said.  While the ideas may be honorable, Weeks said we often fail to really measure how well programs are succeeding to know whether the money is being well spent.

“Government needs discipline . . . We are drowning, ” Weeks said. “We need to measure our effectiveness. We need to constantly be measuring whether we are achieving.”

Schwartzkopf said we need to work to create jobs, reduce regulation and provide more tax credit and incentive type legislation. He said that it can be a “bureaucratic nightmare” to deal with state agencies and that needs to be improved.

We have to give businesses the “opportunity to succeed,” he said.  “It is all about jobs.”

“Small businesses and tourism are the lifeblood of the 14th District,” he said on his website.

Schwartzkopf said that the new state testing system means teachers have a better sense of what students are learning. He said the new system is better and that it involves online testing and will be done more frequently.

Schwartzkopf said that regulation and paperwork in the education system need to be reduced and that he would prefer to see school districts cut administrative positions while leaving teaching positions intact.

He said more discipline and more parental involvement are needed.

Weeks has come under some fire for comments about the Department of Education. But he makes it clear that he is a strong supporter of education and that he merely meant that the system is top heavy. He said more of the money spent on education should be spent in the classroom.

“Teachers will get our children to the top if we give them the tools to do so,” Weeks said. He said that more discipline is needed and that teachers need to be empowered. He called teaching to a test “frustrating.”

On the issue of the environment, Schwartzkopf said two projects have provided good environmental news for the district.  Those are efforts to eliminate Rehoboth Beach’s treated wastewater discharge into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and efforts to improve the air quality of emissions from the Delmarva Power and Light plant near Millsboro.

Weeks said he is a good candidate because he is thoughtful, passionate and creative. He said he comes with no strings attached and no ties to any special interests. “I am a passionate person who cares very much.”

Schwartzkopf said he is a good candidate because of his honesty and common sense. He said he is straightforward wth people and unafraid to make the tough decisions that are needed. “You make decisions when the time comes. I’m not afraid to make those decisions,” he said.

The two candidates differ on the idea of additional gambling in Sussex County. Weeks does not support the proposed Del Pointe project, which is planned for Millsboro. He says that it could draw visitors and business away from the coastal areas.

Weeks has said that Delaware needs to pursue plans raised by the University of  Delaware to perhaps place a four-year college in Sussex County.

Schwartzkopf  does support the casino project, but makes it clear that he does so only because he believes it could bring  jobs to Sussex County. He said that he feels the project would attract tourists and visitors to the coastal area in the off-season.

Schwartzkopf has said Delaware should aggressivly pursue the wind energy field as a potential source of jobs.

“I love the area and the people and I want to continue to serve them,” Schwartzkopf said. “I will never forget who put me in Dover.”

“Clearly, our existing methods of government are not working,” Weeks said on his website.  “Government has gotten too big, too expensive and inefficient.”

“My message has been simple,” Weeks said in an open letter to residents. “We need to get government out of our pockets, our lives and out of our way.”

“I stand by decisions,” Schwartzkopf said on his website. “I don’t play games with the facts. I sign my name to my record. I believe that is what a responsible leader does.”

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