Lt. Governor candidates face off on WDEL

By Frank Gerace 2:56am, November 3, 2012 - Updated 2:42pm, November 3, 2012
Government loans to Fisker Automotive and Bloom Energy were a hot topic during a debate between the candidates for Lieutenant Governor on WDEL Friday night.

Democratic incumbent Matt Denn accused critics of "Monday-morning quarterbacking" and questioned moderator Allan Loudell's description of the loans as a gamble.

"If your question is, 'Should we have tried to get an auto manufacturer to come into a shuttered auto plant, to be able to put all those auto workers back to work?' The answer is yes, and if your question is, 'Should we have tried to get a proven manufacturer like Bloom to come in to the Newark site, and again, put lots of people back to work, both refurbishing the site, and then, once it's up and running?' The answer is 'yes,'" says Denn.

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Republican challenger Sher Valenzuela said the problem with the loans is they were made with the public's money.

"We roll the dice, with taxpayer money, on high-risk venture capital deals that are bound to fail, and we shouldn't be risking that kind of thing with taxpayer money in the first place," says Valenzuela.

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Valenzuela, who runs an upholstering business in Milford with her husband, said the idea that government can create jobs is "absurd."

The federal "Race to the Top" educational funding program illustrated the differences between the candidates, with Denn defending the program.

"The Sussex Tech teacher who won Teacher of the Year got up and credited one of the Race to the Top programs for his having improved his ability as a teacher--it's a professional learning community program, which we didn't have before 'Race to the Top'. Can we improve it? absolutely, and one of the things that I talk to teachers about when I'm in their schools is how we can refine it, how we can make it work better, and we have room to improve with it, but I think it's been a positive," says Denn.

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Valenzuela said she doesn't call the program "Race to the Top."

"I call it 'Waste at the Top,' because it's a bureaucratic-laden system that empowers six-figure-salaried administrators, and keeps the money from, despite Matt Denn's claims, getting to the classroom," says Valenzuela.

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Valenzuela and Denn also tried to distinguish themselves from one another, Valenzuela saying her her supporters come from diverse ideological backgrounds.

"Politically speaking, I think we are speaking to all parties--I'm not running as a Republican for the Republican Party, I'm running as somebody that brings in fresh ideas and a fresh approach to common-sense solutions with measurable results," Valenzuela says.

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Denn accused Valenzuela of not clearly defining herself politically.

"I'm a Democrat, and I'm not afraid to say that, and I think people have a right to know where we're coming from philosophically. I don't think you can say 'all of the above,'" Denn says.

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Valenzuela called on Denn, an attorney, to release records of billable hours for his part-time work at a Wilmington law firm, which Denn said he did under rules drawn up for Republican Mike Castle.

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