New Castle County Executive Paul Clark and former County Executive Tom Gordon erupted in a verbal dispute Wednesday during a candidate forum hosted by WDEL in cooperation with the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.
Both men are running in the four-way primary, vying for the Democratic vote to contest Republican Mark Blake in November.
Clark repeatedly told Gordon to, "open that case book and show everyone there wasn't a problem in New Castle County government," and Gordon asked Clark how much money his wife made while working in land use.
Both men have long histories in county government and both have had their ethics questioned.
The other two challengers, Bill Shahan and Jonathan Husband, are both county employees who are seeking public office for the first time.
“My biggest concern is the future,” Shahan said. “What happened yesterday, happened yesterday. The problem is what we have now.”
That’s not how Clark sees it.
He said that the effects Gordon’s actions had are still looming, and it has taken eight years so far to get past it.
“The way the public sees county government is still a problem today,” the current Executive said during the forum.
When Clark was Council President, his wife worked as a land use attorney.
His opponents said this was a conflict of interest and that he used his position as council president and Executive to manipulate land use decisions.
Clark’s wife has since stepped down from her position and he said that these claims against him are not true.
Gordon, who was indicted on federal racketeering charges in 2004, said that prosecutors dropped the case.
“I was investigated by an appointee of the Bush administration,” Gordon said Wednesday.
Since returning to the limelight, Gordon has gained the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) endorsement.
While most attention of the race has been focused on Clark and Gordon, Shahan and Husband said that a common misconception for them is that they are unknown.
"I have worked with a lot of groups and have accomplished a lot of projects," Husband, a 28-year public service employee, said.
Shahan, a 32-year government employee, said that he often hears that he is also unknown.
Both men told listeners that they have been on the frontlines of county government during their careers.
Candidates answered a variety of questions Wednesday about the county's budget and land use, along with personnel questions including if they would endorse their current opponents if they win in the primaries.
New Castle County recently announced it's AAA bond rating with top Wall-Street investors.
Clark urged WDEL listeners to look at the results, touting his 2012 fiscal year budget with no tax increases.
Page 2 of 2 - "You make it sound like it's the first time," Gordon said.
Gordon said that when he was in office the county went from the A to the AAA rating.
But if things don't change, Shahan said that the county will not maintain this rating.
Shahan and Husband both said that being on the frontlines of government show them where the "waste" is in the budget.
Primary elections for Delaware will be held Sept. 11.
The winner of the County Executive primary will face Blake in November.