The national and international press is clamoring to obtain interviews with U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell after the Tea Party candidate's ascent to political stardom three weeks ago.
But O’Donnell has shied away from the national spotlight and this week delivered on a recent pledge she made to focus on the local press.
“Local media is our first priority,” O’Donnell said in an interview with the Community News Monday, Oct. 4. O’Donnell and an entourage of seven campaign staffers visited the newspaper.
“All these Time, Newsweek, New York Times [publications] keep calling,” O’Donnell said. “But not until we’ve met with all the weeklies – they’re the ones our voters read.”
For instance, the Community News received a message from “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” a Canadian Broadcast Centre (CBC) satirical show seeking to find out O’Donnell’s local schedule. The message was passed along to the O’Donnell camp.
It has been nearly three weeks since O’Donnell, a religious conservative who gained the endorsement of the Tea Party Express and similar "Taxed Enough Already" political groups, delivered the knockout punch of moderate Republican Michael N. Castle in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs on Nov. 2.
After initially shying away from the limelight, O’Donnell emerged to open her new campaign headquarters in Brandywine Hundred Friday, Oct. 1. By Monday, she was on a blitz of local newspaper interviews.
O’Donnell answered a variety questions, from the continual criticism from some in her own party, to national and international policy issues.
GOP moderate support slow in coming
The night of the primary, GOP strategist Don Mell, of Wilmington, said he would not support O’Donnell. Mell has not changed his mind.
“Who I vote for is my business,” Mell told the Community News Sunday, Oct. 3. “I’m a Republican with clients who are Republican, Democratic and independent. I deal with the state legislature. Quite frankly, she just doesn’t represent the kinds of things I’m interested in.”
O’Donnell, 41, of Wilmington, shrugged off the non-support.
“I’ve been paying attention to what our supporters, our voters and the new voters are concerned about,” she said. “That’s where my support comes from - the people who otherwise weren’t involved in the political process.”
As for Castle, O’Donnell took an empathetic approach to the longtime politician, who was urged by Mell and several others to consider a write-in campaign. Castle ultimately decided against it and said he would back the GOP ticket, but stopped short of endorsing O’Donnell.
“I can understand where he’s coming from,” O’Donnell said. “He’s never lost an election ever and he suddenly did. He surrounded himself with a bunch of high-priced consultants who were telling him he was untouchable.
Page 2 of 3 - “He should have listened to the people, not his consultants,” she said. “So I think it’s still the fog of war. He’s still in a little bit of shock. I sincerely wish both him and Jane well. Jane is a very classy lady. I think Congressman Castle will come around. Whether it’s Don Mell or Congressman Castle – what I’m hoping is that on Nov. 2, they’ll realize my opponent supports these massive tax increases. I will fight to stop them. That’s the bottom line – whether or not we can afford the tax increases.”
A conservative stance against tax increases
O’Donnell estimated that a single mother making $30,000 a year and senior citizens making $40,000 will pay another $1,100 in taxes if former President Bush's tax cuts expire, she said. Families making $50,000 per year will pay another $2,000 per year.
“That’s the main difference between Chris Coons and me,” O’Donnell said. “I will stop those tax increases. Coons has pledged to support them. His policies kill small businesses. He sent out a fundraising letter promising Democrats that he is going to support the Reid-Pelosi agenda 100 percent. Those policies, from Obamacare to the tax increases, kill small businesses.”
“The statements he made in his 20s [as a college student] were not just about bearded Marxism, but they were anti-America. Everybody and their brother knows that I made statements in my 20s that I wish I hadn’t. But it was a raw, unrefined version of a [Christian] faith that I have now. Is he still anti-American? Is he still embarrassed by America as he said in that article?”
Coons campaign spokesman Daniel McElhatton said that indeed Coons cares deeply for America and wants to help restore the American economy and jobs. He characterized O’Donnell’s comments in part as her “talking points on taxes” and attempted to put them in perspective.
“In the six years of Coons' time in office, the average household has seen a tax increase yearly of $30,” McElhatton said. “For that tax increase, Chris worked with communities all over New Castle County and vetted the alternatives and did it in a way that was transparent and honest. He‘s not going to hide or run away from making tough decisions.
“That’s what Delaware voters want,” he said. “They don’t want people making promises that they don’t keep. And Ms. O’Donnell, who really hasn’t done much, is making promises that are pretty grandiose.”
Coons wants to make the research and development tax credit permanent and attach it to the manufacturing tax credit so that when Delawareans create something here they are also manufacturing it here, McElhatton said.
“Chris is focused on making things in America and manufacturing them in Delaware and he believes in [incentives to encourage] them to do it here in Delaware and to hire in Delawareans,” he added.
Page 3 of 3 - But Washington, D.C., now controlled by the Democrats, is bankrupt to the point where the national debt is a national security issue, O’Donnell said, echoing the sentiment of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I applaud her for taking a position against her own party on that and doing what is right for the security of our nation,” O’Donnell said. “We waste billions of dollars each year, from Obamacare all the way down to what we’re doing in the Department of Education. Sen. [Tom] Coburn (R-Okla.) just released a report that he called 'School House Pork' and it details billions of dollars that we have wasted over several years on so-called education dollars that don’t go toward education at all. These are the sort of wasteful spending cuts we have to make.”
O’Donnell addresses controversies
With more than $2 million donations pouring in since the primary victory, O’Donnell was asked if she was willing to come to a settlement with former campaign staffer David Keegan, who has claimed O’Donnell’s campaign owes him money. Keegan has yet to produce receipts and an invoice for the expenses he said he’s owed, O’Donnell said.
“If he submits receipts and invoice, by all means we will pay him,” she said. “We sent him a letter to that effect and instead of submitting the expense reports, he’s complaining to the media. Back in 2008, I told him that very same thing.”
As for O’Donnell’s college degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, questions have arisen on when she received it. The college withheld her degree until she paid off her tuition.
“It took me 12 years to pay my bills,” O’Donnell said. “As a result my diploma was delayed. … I have a degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University and am a very proud alumna. We have on our website ‘Christine Counters,’ where I have all this stuff.”