For the candidates in Senate District 15, it's a busy time heading into the Nov. 6 election as the district spans a large portion of Kent County including Hartly, Marydel, Clayton and Cheswold.

Even though District 15 is a fairly large area, the issues for residents are still the same: jobs, economy and education. These are the very issues at the center at the campaigns of Sen. Dave Lawson, Republican; Katie Cooke, Democrat; and Catherine Samardza, Independent.

Cooke an advocate for small business, education

Democrat Katie Cooke may be new to the Delaware political scene, but she's hoping to make a difference locally and to be a voice in the community. She's committed to ensuring world-class education to students and to being an advocate for small business. Her family owns Dover's Kirby and Holloway Family Restaurant.

The fact that her family owns a small business is why Cooke is such a big advocate for small businesses. She worked for the family restaurant and has been a part of its 30-year success so Cooke said she understands the troubles entrepreneurs face.

"I will listen to concerns of our constituencies, and be responsive to those concerns," Cooke said. "I will pass legislation that will have a positive impact on our local community. I will work to cut the red-tape that our small businesses face."

To Cooke, the key issues facing the 15th District are the economy, jobs and education. The economy hit the Kent County community hard, therefore, Cooke said to create jobs Delaware legislatures need to reduce taxes and cut the red tape. As for small businesses, Cooke said they need assistance too as healthcare and worker's compensation costs continue to increase preventing small businesses from growing.

In terms of education, Cooke said teachers need support to ensure their class sizes are appropriate, their salaries aren't cut, and their jobs are still in place each year. Moreover, Cooke said students need curriculum, technology and an appropriate student-to-teacher ratio in the classroom.

"All of these components are essential to education so that our teachers can have the tools to foster the best learning environment for our children," she said.

Lawson seeks second term

Sen. Dave Lawson (R-Marydel) has spent much of his first term fighting for harsher penalties for home invasions, finding a resolution for the coyote issue and more. But the work isn't done, which is why Lawson is running for re-election: "It's a job that needs to be done. I think we need a logical, conservative voice in the Senate."

If re-elected, there are several issues Lawson plans to address including jobs, education, healthcare costs and government spending.

"My big thing is we've got to get jobs back in the state," he said. "The only way we can do that is to reduce regulations and taxes. We have to get those roadblocks out of the way so small businesses can grow."

With education, Lawson said teachers are being pulled away from the classroom too much because of other mandates. Healthcare needs to be renegotiated, Lawson said, because the current path of state employees having better pay than the private sector, and a big retirement and medical at the end is, in his opinion, unsustainable.

During his time in office, Lawson has taken heat for voting against the budget and 'not-voting' for grant-in-aid. He voted against the budget because he felt it was bloated. Lawson said he voted 'not-voting' for the grant-in-aid not because he's against funding fire companies and other groups but because he doesn't agree with the ways items are funded.

"It was because we had at the end came up with an additional $20 million surplus, and we just ran back to committee and found a way to spend it," Lawson said. "We didn't consider saving it, didn't consider putting it in a rainy day fund, didn't consider giving it back to the people."

Samardza offers a third choice

After being unhappy with both the Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly and her elected officials, Independent Catherine Samardza decided to file for Senate District 15.

Samardza said the current elected officials who don't respond or acknowledge constituent calls have forgotten who "hired them."

"We elect our senators and representatives to be our voice in government," she said. "We expect them to take a stand and vote on the issues before them. We do not elect them to say 'not voting' when the roll is called. And yet, that is what is happening."

Samardza feels the fact that she's running as an Independent makes her the right candidate. She is not tied to any party line and said she'll only be responsive to the constituents. Samardza said she is a fiscal conservative and is socially accepting of the diverse population in Kent County.

"I support the 2nd Amendment and a woman's right to choose," Samardza said. "I do not fit neatly into either party profile and I believe that there are a lot of people like me in the state."

While Samardza feels specific issues of concern are across the board in Delaware, she said most can be reduced to equal protection under the law and the disenfranchisement of the public by power being concentrated in the hands of too few for too long.

"I believe the best way to address the economy, education, taxes, and concerns over healthcare related legislation is, in most cases, common sense repeal and amendment of over-reaching legislation and the introduction of legislation to allow voters to place issues on the ballot with a referendum as well as a provision for recall of elected officials for cause."

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