Jobs, healthcare among top issues in 6th Senate District

August 7, 2012

With Primary Day looming, about 65 Democrats gathered for a meet and greet at Irish Eyes in Milton last Tuesday to hear from the candidates who will face each other Tuesday, Sept. 11.

The evening was hosted by the 20th Representative District, under the leadership of chairman Carl Ballato.

I’ll be focusing, however, on the 6th Senate District candidates - Andy Staton of Rehoboth, Mike Miller of Lewes and Bob Frederick of Rehoboth - because I haven’t given them much space.

Staton focused on healthcare and jobs that industry will create in Sussex.

“Healthcare services over the five years will create 3,000 new jobs in this district alone,” Staton said.

But we have to prepare, he said; we have to train and educate the people out of work and the students coming out of high school. The key, he said, is first attracting people at the senior level, the doctors. He suggested regulatory reform, debt relief, but said it also comes down to having “a solid and effective education system.”

The issue, he said, is personal for him because his parents followed him to this area, and they’re having a hard time finding the healthcare services they need.

Another problem we have, Staton said, “is that we do not have an effective, local transportation system,” one that would allow people to get to jobs, appointments and to see their families.

He said it drives him crazy to see the 20 empty buses sitting at Jungle Jim’s, though he understands the problem. “There’s not enough money. I get that,” he said.

But, he said, private companies have told them they can provide the service at half the state’s cost. “Why not start a public-private partnership?”

Miller began by noting his longtime local roots. “We have an amazing opportunity this year to elect someone that comes from the people,” Miller began, saying he’s lived in the area all his life.

Referencing Staton’s comments about the need to bring professionals to Sussex County, Miller said, “I’ve been a tax accountant and have a lawn service, so we do have some professionals that are here in Sussex County that are accessible. So if you need a professional tax accountant or a lawn service I am here and you can give me a call.”

Miller spoke mostly about issues related to his business experience. He said he pays 8.2 percent on the first $10,000 in wages per employee for unemployment insurance, or $8,200 for 10 employees. But, he said, he hasn’t had any claims.

“So why am I paying $8,200 into the unemployment insurance fund?” He said credits should be sped up for small businesses so they get some of that money back.

He cited a similar situation with worker’s comp, saying he’s been in business for about 20 years without a claim, but has paid about $160,000 into the worker’s comp fund. He thinks small businesses should get a credit for that too.

Miller also called for a free county park with ball fields and a pond where people can relax - “maybe one on the east side [of the county], one on the west side.”

Frederick, a former mayor of Dewey Beach, said he’s running on a platform of jobs, education, tourism, transportation and service, about which he has more on his website.

Introducing himself, he said, “First let me tell you a little about Bob Frederick. Bob Frederick has been a 20-plus year [resident] of the area. I’ve been an elected official; I met my wife here.”

He and his future wife lived two blocks apart in D.C., but they met back in the '80s through mutual friends at a Dewey Beach group house. (There’s a good local tradition. My wife and I also met in Dewey, at the Bottle & Cork.)

His first elected office was for a homeowners association. He described it as his “hardest job,” which isn’t a joke if you’ve ever been in involved in one. He has also served as Dewey’s police commissioner and on various boards, including the Beebe Medical Center’s 2005 Vision Campaign.

“One of the biggest things is that I believe in open and transparent government,” he said.

The 6th District is new to Sussex County - it was moved from New Castle following the 2010 census - and takes in Dewey Beach, Rehoboth, Lewes and Milton.