Sen. Tom Carper: A conversation on his campaign and today’s politics
Investigative Editor & Senior Reporter
Tom Carper isn’t done yet.
Over the course of 41 years Carper has been the treasurer, U.S. congressman, governor and U.S. senator for the state of Delaware. The lifelong public servant, who is currently 71 years old, is running for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
“I love covering this state,” Carper said. “I love being in this state.”
Before Carper can face the 16th general election of his political career, he must first defeat liberal activist Kerri Harris. Harris, like Carper, is a military veteran having served in the Air Force (Carper served in the Navy). Since leaving the Air Force, Harris has made a name for herself as a liberal activist, supporting progressive causes such as single-payer healthcare and a $15 minimum wage.
Despite recent Democratic efforts to implement single-payer healthcare, Carper has expressed a desire to defend and improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, also known as “Obamacare”, is an expansive federal healthcare overhaul that was signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama. It has come under attack by Republicans in the years since and was nearly repealed early in President Donald Trump’s first term.
“This administration has done everything in their power to kill it,” Carper said. “We [have] fought them off for 16 months.”
Carper counts himself among the ACA’s most fervent defenders and has focused his efforts on allowing the law to survive the Trump administration, although he is interested in allowing individual states to pilot single-payer healthcare programs. .
Should Carper defeat Harris and advance to the general election, he will face the victor of the Republican primary. The Republicans currently declared for the race are former Paypal executive Eugene Truono and Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett.
Arlett is not waiting to see if he wins the primary. His opening salvo against Carper came when he first declared his candidacy on April 16.
“We need people of courage, and Senator Carper, all he does is vote party-line and he’s anti-President, Arlett said, as reported by the radio station, 105.9 WXDE FM. “Well, excuse me? You were voted for by the Delaware people. Why aren’t you serving the Delaware people versus your party,”.
Harris has also accused Carper of falling out of touch with his constituents in Delaware, although Carper disputes these claims.
“My minivan, my Town and Country minivan that we go across the state in has 474,000 miles,” Carper said, referencing the minivan he bought in 2001. “Most of it in Delaware.”
In an interview with The Review published last week, Arlett said his experience traveling the state for the past three years would benefit him if elected to the U.S. Senate. Carper, by contrast, said that he has campaigned in 13 statewide elections over the past 41 years and has a full schedule campaigning all over the state for this current election.
“I’d like to invite him [Rob Arlett] to try to keep up with my schedule,” Carper said. “I come home to [Delaware] almost every night.”
The 71 year-old Carper disputed the idea that his age should have any bearing on the race. The former naval flight officer noted that he wakes up every morning at 5:30 a.m., does 300 push ups and lifts weights on a regular basis. He is also in his 35th season of doing half marathons.
“I run circles around these guys,” Carper said. “If they think age should be an issue, we’ll have a foot race and do push-ups with me.”
While Carper is actively campaigning throughout Delaware for re-election, he still works on Capitol Hill during the week. One of his responsibilities is to act as the ranking Democratic member on the Committee on Environment and Public Works. As ranking member, he deals with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its current administrator, Scott Pruitt.
“He should never have been nominated in the first place,” Carper said. “We knew he would be bad on policy. I had no idea he would be so ethically challenged.”
Over the last few months, especially following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the debate over how to handle the issue of gun violence in the U.S. has remained in the public zeitgeist. Carper spoke on the recent pushes for stricter gun control laws at the state and federal levels.
Carper was born in Beckley, W. Va., and said that guns played a major role in his life, and that they were present in his home as a child.
“My dad was a strong believer in Second Amendment rights, and so am I,” Carper said. “He also believed we ought to use some common sense, and so do I. My dad used to say, ‘you don’t need an assault rifle. You don’t need these high capacity magazines in order to kill a deer or a wild pig or a bear.’”
Carper spoke of what he called the “common sense test” that he says should be used when evaluating any legislation relating to guns. For example, Carper said that people who are not allowed to fly should not be able to legally purchase a firearm.
“The idea that people who have serious mental problems, or convicted felons, can still have access to weapons, even at gun shows, that didn’t make a lot of sense,” Carper said. “It [also] didn’t pass the common sense test.”
Another topic that is prevalent in the nation’s political conversation is the controversies surrounding President Donald Trump.
Carper also commented on the status of President Donald Trump, who is currently under investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller III into any possible foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt” several times, and, according to the New York Times, tried to end the probe by firing Mueller. Politicians and pundits have debated the merits or the investigation, and whether it should continue for months.
Carper believes that Mueller and his investigation should remain.
“I will say this: Bob Mueller needs to be allowed to continue to do his job,” Carper said.
Several Democratic politicians have already expressed support for the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, but Carper was not ready to make a decision on that subject either way.
Even though Carper was not ready to make a decision on whether or not to support the impeachment of Trump, he was ready to criticize him.
“The key to the success of any organization that I have ever seen or been a part of… is always leadership,” Carper said. “Donald Trump reflects none of those qualities [of a good leader]. Its very sad … We can do a lot better than that, and we need to.”