Kim Williams for 19th District State Representative

This is my eighth endorsement of the 2012 Primary Election season.

With one more endorsement to go, I figured I’d better make it one very near and dear to me. As a lifelong resident of the Red Clay School District, my endorsement of Kim Williams for 19th District State Representative was an easy choice. Without even getting into what Kim will offer the General Assembly, I can simply say she’s one of the most genuine, honest, hard-working, caring, and thoughtful individuals in my professional career. Disclaimer: I am an employee of the Red Clay School District. Kim Williams is a member of the Red Clay School Board, the official body that employs me. This endorsement, however, is all me. And I can’t be happier to make it.

I didn’t know Kim five years ago. In fact, I bet most people wouldn’t know Kim Williams had the Red Clay School District not been in such dire financial straits that Kim and fellow parent activist Anne O’Malia felt compelled to start a blog called Fix Red Clay that ultimately did just that. This blog soon got picked up by the rest of the burgeoning Delaware blogosphere and was recognized for what it was at the time: a daring and honest look into the workings of a school district that had gone astray due to administrative hubris and absolute financial malfeasance. Some of the topics addressed in the blog weren’t easy and most of the commenting participants hid behind goofy pseudonyms even if some of them offered invaluable information.

The time came in 2009 where we still needed to make some changes to the make-up of the Red Clay School Board. I got behind Kim Williams, who ran as a parent and activist looking to get Red Clay back on track. Unlike many of the previous board members who brought their own mysterious business philosophies to the Board, Williams’s interests and biases were simple and clear: She’s a parent. Of two District students. A committed PTA mom who just wanted to see the school district she grew up in clean itself up so her kids can benefit from the same education she did.

In the three years since Kim was elected to the Board, she’s brought recognizable change. In perhaps her biggest move as Board member, she moved to have Cab Calloway  — a District magnet school — admit more students from within Red Clay boundaries. This caused a bit of controversy, but it was the right thing to do. There are times when Kim chooses a path that — perhaps — may not be the politically correct way to go.

And now we’re left with an open House seat being vacated by Speaker of the House Bob Gilligan, the longest serving politician in the state. Kim let me know shortly after Gilligan’s retirement that she’d be running. I told her I support her even though it means we may lose her voice on the Board. Because what we lose in Red Clay, the General Assembly and the residents of the 19th will gain in Dover.

I support Kim Williams for 19th District State Representative. Like so many of my other endorsements this year, Kim will be an active voice FOR public education and we need many more of those folks in Dover.

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Sean Matthews for 10th District House Representative

Note: This is endorsement number seven of eight I’ll be doing in the run-up to tomorrow’s primary election.

When I first met Sean Matthews in the summer of 2009, we soon realized we had a lot more in common than our last names. He’s my Matthews brother from a different mother. Y’see, Sean sat on the interview committee at the school at which I’m presently employed. After starting in the fall, Sean and I quickly realized we had a love of politics. He confided in me that a future run for a political office wasn’t out of the question. I told him it’s a great idea. Young guy. Intelligent. Attractive. Convincing communicator. I like the word “gregarious.” That’s a package that can be sold to voters. Truth be told, Sean’s a natural at this stuff.

When I first arrived at Richardson Park Elementary, Sean was our school’s pull-out/push-in special education teacher. In this capacity, I was always in awe of Sean and his ability to relate to the students with whom he was working. They responded to him. Sean and I have rather similar approaches and educational philosophies. Similar in that they’re very different from the claptrap hooey we are fed today by those in administration and the Department of Education who’ve bought into this whole “data-driven” model of education. Y’see, we understand the value of data in any educational picture, but Sean and I always considered ourselves more “student driven.”

When Sean and I taught on the fifth-grade team together, he routinely shared with me some of the non-traditional teaching methods he’d use to help engage his students. Lots of group discussions. Using fables and other classic literature to teach lessons with an ethical and moral core. These things aren’t necessarily “standards-based” nor are they “curriculum-based,” but Sean believes that if such strategies worked for generations before, then why can’t they work now?

Besides his professional career, Sean has been just as active civically since dropping foot in Delaware several years ago. Whether as president of his civic association or as a youth group volunteer at his church, Sean is a guy who listens first, then asks questions, and finally shares his thoughts and ideas. And, again, he will be a real representative for those voices that often go unheard in the legislative process: children.

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch for me to say I dream one day of seeing Sean in Legislative Hall wielding the gavel as chair of the House Education Committee. I dream of him taking control of the meeting and bringing forth education officials and other relevant folks and asking them about what’s working and not working in a system that is terribly overtaxed with regulations, policies, and procedures that have little positive impact on the learning and success of our students.

In that capacity, there are some who may characterize Sean as a troublemaker. But the only trouble I see is the tragic continuation of those policies that continue to jeopardize the futures of children all in the name of an intransigent “education reform” movement that is more about boosting the portfolio of a few key stakeholders as opposed to what’s best for our kids. We need Sean in Dover. Now.

I am highly suggesting Sean Matthews for 10th District State Representative.

Claudia Bock for 23rd District State Representative

Note: This is number six of eight endorsement I’ll be making in the run-up to the primary on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

This race is tough. All three candidates have some truly progressive bonafides. Jerry Grant is a longtime legislative aide and Paul Baumbach has a key roll in progressive politics here in Delaware. With such great choices, though, I knew I had to stick with my education theme in supporting Claudia Bock for the 23rd State Representative seat. Before her announcement, I’d only casually met Claudia several times at DSEA events here and there. But I knew soon after her announcement that we’d become good friends fast.

Claudia is a what I’d call a quiet tiger. She’s got the fight in her, but her way of going about it is so calm, so rational, and so reflective of the thoughtful person she truly is. As president of the Christina Education Association when that District saw some devastating financials six years ago, Claudia fought to keep things together for her members and so many in the Christina community. Like another candidate I’ll be endorsing tomorrow, Claudia was a key player in helping the Christina School District get through an immeasurably tough time that saw programs being cut and an immense amount of public scrutiny of all those Christina employees (you remember The News Journal publishing a searchable database of all Christina employees’ salaries?), most all of whom had nothing to do with the financial downfall of the District.

In that position as teachers’ union leader, Claudia performed her job — asking questions and getting answers. As a special education teacher at the Sterck School for the Deaf for over 30 years, Claudia knows first hand the challenges that an overwrought educational bureaucracy has on her students. As Claudia has often said on the campaign trail, she is a “problem solver and not a problem maker.” In education today, we need vocal individuals willing to go up against the educational lines were fed every day and act as ADVOCATES for our educators and, more importantly, the children we serve on a daily basis. While there is some of that representation currently in Dover, there isn’t nearly the representation there should be were a Claudia Bock to hit the House floor. And hit it she would. In discussions with Claudia, it’s become clear that she wants to take that Education committee by storm. Ask the types of questions that only a seasoned educator could ask. And then get answers. And if those answers aren’t good enough, to keep pressing.

I spent an afternoon, recently, walking the beat with Claudia. We trekked through all different parts of northwestern Delaware that I didn’t even know existed. We traveled through some nice neighborhoods and properties and then towards the end of the day we ended up in a particularly disheveled looking community that didn’t seem to be operating at its fullest potential. Claudia walked up to one of the women on her voter list and was immediately greeted by her. This woman, who was also the civic association president, began sharing some of the community’s problems with her. Claudia listened and let the woman speak. Claudia heard what she was saying, offered some great suggestions, and told the woman she would be so excited to represent her and the rest of the residents in the community. By the end of the chat, the woman was begging Claudia for a yard sign. The interaction between Claudia and the other woman was genuine and something leads me to believe that even if Claudia doesn’t win, she’ll be back to assist that woman and the community she represents.

I fully endorse Claudia Bock for 23rd District State Representative.

 

Eric Anderson for 3rd Senate District

This is number five in a series of eight endorsements I’ll be making before Tuesday.

The State Senate has a real opportunity this year to send some too-well-seasoned incumbents out and elect some truly progressive, young, and dynamic voices. I endorsed Bryan Townsend for 11th Senate last week and today it’s Eric Anderson. I met Eric only shortly after he announced his run for veteran Sen. Bobby Marshall’s (D-Forever) seat last December. I wanted to meet Eric ASAP because I’d actually considered a run for that seat this year. On my former blog, I did a video post calling out Sen. Bobby Marshall for never returning my phone calls back in 2008. Too young to run for the Senate at the time, I threatened a 2012 run against him, but it never materialized. One, because I’m simply too busy and two, because I found Anderson to be a candidate whose views on a host of issues are pretty well in line with mine.

As you can tell from some of my previous endorsements, I’m placing a premium on candidates who have something to say about our public education system. I’m supporting candidates who’ve made it clear they don’t like the way things are going now. The over-corporatization and bureaucratization of our public schools is stifling teacher freedom and creativity and, by extension, student engagement and success. Every candidate I’m endorsing for the state legislature has said he or she believes there needs to be a shake-up in the way we approach education politics in this state. And many of the candidates I’ve endorsed (or will be endorsing) have perspectives as ACTUAL classroom teachers or related experiences that make them uniquely qualified to address this issue in Legislative Hall.

Eric Anderson is a math teacher at the Charter School of Wilmington. He’s also the former school board president of the Christina School District. Though he doesn’t work for a “full-fledged traditional” public school, Eric has witnessed first-hand the wrecking ball that is the state of education politics in Delaware. He realizes that a greater role has to be assigned to teachers, parents, and those directly related to in-class instruction when it comes to designing policy that will be implemented BY those teachers, parents, and those directly related to in-class instruction.

Aside from education being his biggest issue, Anderson has shown an interest in initiatives that will bring about greener transportation to Delaware in general and Wilmington in particular. An advocate of equal rights for all as well as full transparency and accountability in government, Anderson will be a great voice for residents of the 3rd who are being drastically under-served by 34-year incumbent Bobby Marshall. There comes a point in a person’s career where he should just step down. That time came about a decade ago for Sen. Marshall. It’s now imperative that the voters do to Marshall what he should have done to himself then.

I fully support Eric Anderson in the Democratic Primary for 3rd District State Senator on Tuesday, September 11.

Bryan Townsend for 11th Senate District

Note: This is endorsement number four in a series of eight that will be published prior to Tuesday’s primary election.

Second Note: I scrapped my original endorsement for Bryan after walking with him last night. I thought a more personal narrative would suit.

I knew I’d be endorsing Bryan Townsend the moment I met him. I didn’t know his position on any important issues to me, but I knew my support needed to be sent his way. Y’see, my initial support for Bryan was purely visceral; we need to do anything we can to rid our State Senate of Pres. Pro Tem Tony DeLuca, a man whose transgressions against the citizens of Delaware include political game play with valued scholarships, voting against employment protections for gays and lesbians, using thousands of taxpayer dollars to build himself an extended Senate office lobby to give himself an additional “buffer” of security from constituents and lobbyists, and the fact that he’s probably serving unconstitutionally in the Senate. I’d already had my case AGAINST Sen. DeLuca, but I hadn’t yet been sold on the case to SUPPORT Bryan Townsend aside from my personal distaste for DeLuca.

That didn’t take long.

I first saw Bryan in the audience of a News Journal forum on education in April at the University of Delaware. He’d long since announced and I’d been watching his campaign from afar. Bryan asked a question about the forum. A good question. A question about administrative duties in schools and why it seems the real issue isn’t “bad” teachers, but administrators who don’t know how to do their jobs as, ummm, administrators. I wanted to introduce myself that night to let him know I’d be supporting him because DeLuca is such a stain on the Senate, but it didn’t happen for whatever reason.

I don’t fully know the circumstances around our original meeting, but Bryan was interested in hearing from me on education matters. And I would like to stress hearing from me. Bryan loves to listen and take things in before rendering his own thoughts. He comes from a family of educators. We met early on with a group of educators. Educators for Townsend, so to speak. He listened to us. He took notes. He followed along. He decided he wanted to hear more. He arranged for a town-hall style event in Christiana Fire Hall where more educators, parents, administrators, and school board members showed up. This was not a forum for Bryan to share his thoughts. He wanted to hear from educators. And that’s what he did. I sat next to him and watched him copy notes. Voluminous notes. He responded to concerns and questions with thoughtful and nuanced comments. He admitted several times he didn’t know about certain issues. And that was good. Too many politicians give canned responses and BS one-liners to pander. I’ve always thought it refreshing when someone responds “I don’t know, but I’d sure love to learn.”

I knew Bryan’s campaign was heating up. The word on the street was that he’d assembled a huge team of volunteers dedicated to seeing him win the Sept. 11 primary. I had a busy summer and Bryan had a busy summer and we finally reconnected yesterday when I went lit-dropping with him through a few neighborhoods in his district. Wow. Can this guy do some door knocking. I’ve worked with many spectacular candidates running for office this year. I love them all for many reasons, but I’m not sure anyone could top Townsend’s delivery at the door. We only knocked for two hours, but in those two hours I recall two conversations with potential constituents that prove Bryan is the better candidate for this job.

Both of these residents seemed to be highly engaged and informed voters. One spoke with us for about half an hour on topics ranging from college funding and student loans. The other briefly discussed how his community doesn’t have a civic association. One of the gentleman was in a higher-end neighborhood while the other looked like his could use some work. Maybe some BETTER REPRESENTATION. Bryan engaged both of these men with a great amount of caring. He spoke to them both with the same amount of enthusiasm. He had suggestions. Never an ounce of condescension or disinterest. Even as the mosquitoes began making a feast out of both of us.

It eventually got dark and we’d exhausted our walk list. We headed back to campaign headquarters, Bryan’s house, where there would be lots of food for all the canvassers wrapping up. Upon arrival, I got my hands on a copy of a mail piece Bryan told me was going out to “thousands” of Democrats in the district. I looked at it and was befuddled at first. This wasn’t a mail piece. It couldn’t be. It was a piece of Bryan Townsend stationary with a handwritten note. Then I read the note. And thought: “This is the most brilliant piece of campaign literature I’ve seen. Ever.” I’ve never seen a candidate write a note like this and send it through the mail. Contrast this beautifully written letter at left with the three pieces of filth sent out by Sen. DeLuca that just so happened to ALL land in voters’ boxes on the SAME day last Thursday. I have no doubt that when that letter hit those voters that he likely won over a few hundred more

After reading that letter, it became clear to me that there can be no choice in this race. The true leader is not the man currently representing the 36,000 residents of the 11th District. Bryan Townsend is the leader here and he must be the one selected to represent the Democrats on the ticket come November. Because there’s no way in hell his opponent, Sen. Tony DeLuca, has more heart in this race than Bryan.

And, contrary to popular belief by some in the establishment, Bryan has both the heart and the tools to win this race.

It is with no trepidation at all that I offer my most energetic endorsement of this primary election to Bryan Townsend for 11th State Senate. The residents of the 11th deserve real representation now and the honor of the Senate must be quickly restored by having Sen. Tony DeLuca sent packing from office.

Nick Manolakos for 22nd District State Representative

This is the third in a series of eight endorsements I’ll be making in the run-up to the primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

There is a tough primary fight in the Hockessin/kinda-sorta-Newark region of the state. Two sitting House Republicans will be fighting for a spot on the general election ticket in Tuesday’s primary election. Longtime 22nd Rep. Joe Miro will be primaried by 25th Rep. Nick Manolakos, who was a victim of redistricting this past year. Manolakos and Miro were drawn into the same district and with neither willing to budge, they are faced with a primary.

I am supporting Nick Manolakos in this race for House. This is not a race I normally would have commented on, but the performance of Rep. Manolakos at a recent community forum — as well as my personal experiences with him — led me to believe he’s the stronger choice for this seat as opposed to Rep. Miro.

I first met Rep. Manolakos 13 years ago. He was the assistant dean at my high school in my senior year. We didn’t have too many run-ins. I was mostly a good kid who did obnoxious things as editor of the school paper. I remember him being a decisive and reliable leader in our school. We reconnected several years later when he decided to run for State House. I was writing a notorious blog covering Delaware politics and I immediately took an interest in his race back in 2006. He won a hard-fought primary and general election.

Rep. Manolakos is currently an administrator in Red Clay, but will soon be moving on to headmaster of the Odyssey Charter School of Wilmington. I have supported him in the past because he’s been a staunch ally of public education. Having been in our public schools for over 30 years, Rep. Manolakos knows the challenges some of our neediest public schools face and has been a fierce advocate for serving those needs.

Aside from that, Rep. Manolakos simply is more adept at handling simple things like a debate performance among an audience of only about a dozen. I understand debates may not always be the best judge of a candidate’s worthiness, but his performance at the recent Unitarian Universalist debates in Newark were nothing short of astonishing against opponent Rep. Miro. Miro had a difficult time answering some questions and become especially flustered with some — notably one on marriage equality. Rep. Manolakos answered the questions honestly and with little hesitation.

Considering my personal knowledge of Rep. Manolakos, his strong support of public education, and his ability to better articulate a message, I’m supporting him for 22nd District State Representative.

Victoria Kent for 1st Representative District

Note: This is post two in my series of eight endorsements I’m making for the primary on September 11.

There’s still an air of mystery that surrounds Victoria Kent to me. An intensely thoughtful and forever-thinking woman, I first met Victoria more than three years ago at a House Gaming and Parimutuels Committee meeting in Newark. Victoria came up to me and another citizen activist and immediately engaged in conversation. Her intensity and knowledge on any host of topics can be intimidating.

But that intimidation is immediately rendered null when one gets to know Victoria. Her compassion far outweighs any of the analytics she can often be heard sharing at the various community organizations, civic associations, and governmental committees she’s working on.

A native of the Ukranian offshoot Crimea, Kent is not a lifelong Delawarean resident, as many career politicians wear with such pride. Kent moved to her district several years ago and immediately immersed herself in the goings-on of her community. As a former public school teacher and current college adjunct instructor, Victoria knows the strengths and weaknesses in our education system.

She has offered robust and tangible ideas to help combat the achievement gap that plagues many of our schools. Working hand-in-hand with the staff at one Wilmington elementary school, Victoria is helping craft a viable STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program to a population of students that is often left behind in these endeavors. She is thoughtfully offering local community organizations ways that parental involvement — a key linchpin in a child’s success — can be increased among a population that so desperately needs it.

Aside from education, Victoria is an active participant in economic matters. Victoria believes one of Delaware’s strengths is attracting large corporations and multi-national entities, but is lacking in the area of small business. If elected, Victoria will work on ways to lessen some of the barriers potential small business owners face to see their dreams turn into reality.

Aside from the important topics of education and economics, Victoria is committed to seeing marriage equality come to Delaware sooner rather than later. As well, she believes fully in transparency and accountability of our legislature and wants to see a general assembly more opened and held up to scrutiny.

There needs to be someone in the legislature who will have the ability to respectfully rile up so much of the go-along-to-get-along backslapping and hand-shaking that is obscenely pervasive in those hallways. Victoria Kent is that candidate.

Victoria Kent for 1st State Representative.

For more information, please visit Victoria’s website here.