Lieutenant governor candidate Hall-Long returns home
State Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown) was back on her old stomping grounds on Thursday, May 27, but this time as a candidate for lieutenant governor.
Hall-Long grew up on her family’s farm in Dagsboro and graduated from Indian River High School in 1981. After high school, she went on to Thomas Jefferson University, where she earned a degree in nursing, and later earned her doctorate from George Mason University.
Sitting across the street from Lord Baltimore Elementary School, where she jokingly recalled a particularly tough sixth-grade math teacher, Hall Long said, “I’m the only candidate who knows how to surf and how to drive a tractor.”
Hall-Long has served in the Delaware legislature for 14 years — first as a state representative and since 2008 as a state senator. Hall-Long stopped by the Coastal Point office in Ocean View for an interview during a weekend of Sussex County campaign appearances.
One of six Democratic candidates for Delaware’s second-highest office, Hall-Long said she feels her career in healthcare and education has prepared her well, and that her time in the legislative branch has given her experience in working on statewide issues with members from both parties. She added that she sees the office of lieutenant governor as a logical next step in a career of service.
“I feel that I can do more to make Delaware better, stronger and healthier as lieutenant governor,” she said.
When she moved to the Washington, D.C., area while her husband, Dana, worked at the Pentagon with the U.S. Navy, Hall-Long had an opportunity to get involved in grassroots politics and community activism.
During the same period, Hall-Long worked as a nurse manager and home-care nurse in Northern Virginia while completing her doctoral degree. She served as a U.S. senate and United States Department of Health & Human Services fellow, receiving numerous awards for her community work and public policy activities on Capitol Hill.
Hall-Long later returned to her native Delaware with her family. She is currently a professor of nursing at the University of Delaware and a member of UD’s Joint Faculty in Urban Affairs. She was the first member of the nursing faculty to win a university-wide teaching award.
The lieutenant governor’s office has been vacant since January 2015, when Matt Denn resigned from the office to become the state’s attorney-general. As the only candidate currently serving in the senate, Hall-Long has had the unique opportunity to literally try out some of the duties of the office she is currently seeking, since legislators have taken turns presiding over the state senate in the absence of an elected lieutenant governor.
As a Sussex County native, Hall-Long said she understands the needs of the area better than the other candidates. As a health professional, she is well aware of the “cancer clusters” identified in specific areas throughout Sussex County. She pointed out that, although progress is being made in that area, “Sussex County still has a higher rate” of cancer than other areas of the state.
Education and health are closely linked in Hall-Long’s career, and, she feels, in the future success of the state. As an example, she said, “I am a big supporter of wellness centers in high schools,” and said she wants to take the concept a step further, by introducing “family health centers” that can be a resource for both students and their families.
Hall-Long also said she wants to see expansion of Delaware’s SEED program — which allows students who keep their grades up in high school to attend community college free of charge — to make it possible for those students to attend college part-time. Currently, the program requires that students attend college full-time in order to qualify, which greatly reduces their ability to work while attending school.
As the product of a Sussex County farm, Hall-Long said she understands “the whole balance of how we preserve farmland” in the face of increasing development pressures.
As a nurse, Hall-Long said she is drawn to issues involving the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including senior citizens, children and the mentally ill.
As chair of the Senate Health & Social Services Committee, in addition to efforts to fight cancer, she has focused on statewide efforts to fight drug addiction and to provide mental health services. Making residential treatment facilities for mental health issues more accessible, by providing such facilities in each county, is a priority, Hall-Long said.
Hall-Long said that, if elected, “I will say to the next governor, ‘Place me where I might assist the most’” Delawareans.
She also serves as a member of the capital budget Bond Committee, where she focuses on building Delaware’s infrastructure, modernizing schools, repairing highways and protecting the environment and open space.