With the control of the state Senate riding on the 10th District special election, the results will likely affect all Delawareans.

With the control of the state Senate riding on the 10th District special election, the results will likely affect all Delawareans, instead of only those living in the 10th District.

The Senate is made up of 21 seats, one of which is vacant after 10th District Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, a Democrat, was elected lieutenant governor. Now, 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans occupy the remaining 20 seats.

A win in the 10th District race in the Middletown-Newark area by either Democrat Stephanie Hansen or Republican John Marino would swing power of the Senate into that party’s control. A win by Libertarian Joseph Lanzendorfer would maintain the 10-10 split, with his vote most likely being sought by both parties.

“For more than 40 years, Republicans have been in the minority in the Senate, thus depriving the people of Delaware an opposing voice. One-party rule just isn’t working in Delaware, and it certainly isn’t working for our citizens,” Senate Republican Leader F. Gary Simpson said. “Today Delaware is 41st in economic growth and second in foreclosures. We have a $350 million deficit, and all the Democrats offer is higher taxes even though we’re already the fourth most expensive state government per capita in the country, and we’re 35th in job growth. When will we learn our lesson?”

Senate President Pro Tem David B. McBride, a Democrat, acknowledged the implications the results of this will have on the state senate, but said no matter the outcome, gridlock should not be an option.

“Obviously this race has implications when it comes to which party will enjoy the majority in the Senate, but regardless of the outcome, we're going to have to work across the aisle to get things done,” McBride said. “I think any Republican in the General Assembly would say the same thing. We are a state of neighbors that has always been immune from Washington-style gridlock and I hope voters keep Delaware on that path when they vote on Feb. 25."

Ifeyinwa Udezulu, a political science professor at Delaware State University, said this election could have historical significance.

“If Marino wins, the Republican Party may make a remarkable comeback, and power changes hands, mimicking the national trend,” Udezulu said. “On the other hand, if Hansen wins, the Democratic Party will maintain historical control of the Senate.”

The Candidates 

Joseph Lanzendorfer

A credit card fraud detective, Lanzendorfer, 30, is running to give voters a third option, outside of the typical two-party politics.

In a recent debate held at Middletown High School, Lanzendorfer emphasized if the Democrat or Republican candidate is elected, only that side’s agenda would be heard, but if he is elected, the others would be forced to work together.

“If it is Democrat control, they have control, if it is Republican control, they have control. If you vote for me, I don’t think it will be gridlock,” Lanzendorfer said at the debate. “They are going to have to work together to get the best legislation passed, instead of one side forcing their legislation through or bickering. There will have to be cooperation.”

Lanzendorfer is a self-described “moderate Libertarian,” disagreeing with his party’s push to abolish public education, and it is education that Lanzendorfer believes one of the top issues in the 10th District, along with the economy.

“The two go hand in hand. Better education leads to a better economy in the long term, but we also need to attract businesses to Delaware,” he said. “Otherwise our best and brightest will just leave the state to find work elsewhere.

Lanzendorfer said he advocates eliminating the franchise tax on LLCs and limited partnerships, loosen licensing requirements and regulations on businesses, and lowering taxes on small businesses.

“On education, I would shift our focus away from standardized testing and towards the growth of each individual student, empower teachers by giving them the tools and resources they need to help their students succeed, and give parents more school choice,” he said.

Stephanie Hansen

Hansen, 55, is an environmental attorney and is vice-chair of the environmental section of the Delaware Bar Association.

Hansen’s political experience includes serving as president of New Castle County Council from 1996-2000.

“I am a lifelong Delawarean with a proven leadership history in public service,” Hansen said. “As a mother, I raised three children who are successful, proud graduates of the Christina and Appoquinimink public school districts. As a civic leader I fought for government accountability representing over 60 civic and maintenance associations in the Route 40 corridor. As an environmental attorney, I helped create jobs and clean up contaminated properties, and as New Castle County Council President, I led a budget reset that helped turn a $100 million deficit into a $100 million surplus.”

Hansen believes that improving the economy and education are among the most important things to do, not only in the 10th District, but the entire state of Delaware.

“After the devastating recession eight years ago, too many hard-working Delawareans still feel left behind by our recovery. That’s why creating and preserving quality jobs that pay a living wage is my top priority,” Hansen said. “Government’s job is to set the table for businesses to want to locate here. Businesses want a ready, talented workforce; good infrastructure (roads, sewer, water, other utilities); and a predictable, short timeline to building approvals. To have these things in place, we need an education system that provides career-ready training, government investment in infrastructure, and a more-efficient and transparent building approval process.” 

John Marino

Marino, a 51-year-old retired New York police officer, is now a licensed Delaware realtor who started his own business, J&J Homes.

He said he is running to help Delaware citizens with a “myriad” of issues, but most importantly the heroin epidemic, job growth, and the education system.

“The use of heroin and its scourge throughout our community affects families across the board both old and young,” Marino said. “On the law enforcement side, we need to direct additional resources to find and lock up the dealers including harsher sentences when their sales have led to a death. On the other side of the coin, we need increased education and reach out particularly to our young people both through the schools and community groups.”

When it comes to job creation, Mario believes the Democrats haven’t done a good enough job in preserving or creating jobs, and believes a new approach is needed.

“First it was Chrysler, then General Motors, then Astra Zeneca, then DuPont, and just this week in our own backyard, B F Rich. All of these companies either closed or downsized,” Marino said. Thousands of good paying jobs disappeared from Delaware. Small businesses have suffered as well. We need to change our approach to attracting new job. We must end unnecessary regulations that particularly hurt small businesses’ ability to expand.”

Marino believes that the state’s education system also needs reform.

“There is too much emphasis on testing, spending classroom time teaching for the tests and administrative red tape that prevents teachers from really educating our children,” Marino said. “We need better paid and trained teachers. We need to give teachers in the classrooms the flexibility to use the best teaching methods for their individual students.”

Marino said he is best qualified for the 10th District seat because he isn’t a political insider.

“I’m not a politician. Some say I’m too blunt, but I think it is time to look hard at the results and question whether Delaware can continue to go down the same path,” Marino said. “If I’m elected there will be balance in Dover. Both Democrats and Republicans will have to agree on solutions. My pledge is to listen to the voters of the 10th District and represent their views in Dover regardless of party.”