Letter: State treasurer: A vote that counts

November 2, 2018

When Ken Simpler and I were running for state treasurer four years ago, I had a conversation with a member of a stalwart Democratic family that has stuck with me ever since. She planned on voting for Ken because her family was friendly with Ken’s family. Ken’s ideas were clearly not her ideas, she emphasized, and she quickly added that she would not think of supporting him for a position of consequence in Delaware. She didn’t see the harm, though, in casting a vote for him to be our state treasurer. As state treasurer, she suggested, Ken “wouldn’t have a vote” on anything that touched upon her values.

In 2014, when Ken was a first-time candidate, it may have seemed plausible, even reasonable, to expect that he would confine himself as treasurer to investing the state’s cash reserves, and would not seek to exercise a voice or a “vote” on the issues that matter most to us as Delawareans. Now that Ken has been in office for four years, any such expectation can only be described as wishful thinking.

Over the course of four years as treasurer, Ken has sought for himself and ultimately secured for himself a seat at the table when it comes to crafting Delaware’s state budget. As Joe Biden has made clear throughout his years of public service, nothing could be more consequential when it comes to our values as Delawareans. “Don’t tell me what you value,” Joe is fond of saying. “Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Ken has used his seat at the table in Dover to push a conservative agenda that would let the wealthiest Delawareans off the hook for paying their fair share of taxes, widen inequality and reduce opportunity in the First State. His proposals would put Delaware’s state government in a straightjacket, making it harder to adequately fund our schools, expand access to quality, affordable healthcare, and invest in priorities like modern infrastructure and a clean environment. Ken was the lead Republican member of a council on revenues that set the table for abolishing the taxation of inherited wealth in Delaware. He has been the leading proponent of new budget rules that would tilt the playing field in Dover in favor of a conservative vision of state government.  

Ken has gone so far as to attempt to rewrite Delaware’s Constitution so as to mandate his conservative vision for Delaware in our fundamental charter of state government. Meanwhile, he has signed on to a legal brief arguing that Delaware does not have a constitutional responsibility to provide Delaware’s children with public school educations adequate to prepare them to be productive, contributing members of society. If Ken were successful in his effort to re-write Delaware’s Constitution, he would tie the hands of Delaware governors, legislators, and voters for generations to come - yoking us all to the mast of his personal, conservative ideology. 

To give credit where credit is due, this is not a man of small ambition. The vote this November for state treasurer should not be thought of as a values-free vote. It should not be a vote that Delawareans cast lightly, without consulting their hopes for our state’s future. Delaware’s state treasurer should have a seat at the table when it comes to charting our economic and budgetary course. Past state treasurers have played critical roles in shaping Delaware’s budget process and defining Delaware’s strategic economic priorities. But the person to whom we give that very important seat at the table in Dover should be someone who shares our values. It should be someone who shares our vision for what Delaware can and should be as a state. 

Fortunately, we have the chance to elect just such a person this fall. Colleen Davis grew up knowing what it is to struggle. A bankruptcy devastated her family during her childhood. She went without and worked hard to pay her way through college. She has never forgotten the opportunities the First State afforded her, including a quality public-school education that made it possible for her - despite her family’s struggles - to achieve her own American Dream.

We have a choice this fall between two well-qualified candidates. Ken has earned millions of dollars in his career for investors in his hedge fund. Colleen, as a financial consultant, has saved patients and their families millions of dollars by identifying efficiencies and eliminating waste in our hospital systems. The question in this election is who understands the challenges faced by everyday Delawareans in today’s increasingly unequal economy and who is committed to using their influence in Dover to ensure that every Delawarean gets a fair shake.  

I will be casting my vote for Colleen Davis. 

Sean Barney
2014 Democratic nominee
for state treasurer
Delaware public defender

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