July 23, 2020 at 11:18 am EDT | by Joshua Keller
Rehoboth candidates on COVID, transparency — and Trump
Rehoboth candidates, mayor of Rehoboth Beach, gay news, Washington Blade
Stan Mills said current Rehoboth Mayor Paul Kuhns lacks transparency, a charge Kuhns disputed. (Photos courtesy of campaigns)

In last week’s candidates’ forum put on by CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBT community services organization in Rehoboth Beach, Del., the six candidates running for mayor and city commissioner in this year’s election made the case for why they should be elected.

In the mayoral race, former longtime commissioner Stan Mills emphasized his community involvement and criticized his opponent, incumbent mayor Paul Kuhns, for running a government that Mills sees as lacking transparency.

Kuhns criticized Mills for being a part of the old guard that went $2.5 million over-budget to build a new city hall and touted his own ability to deliver on city planning initiatives under-budget. 

In the commissioner race, Hugh Fuller, a longtime resident and owner of the Purple Parrot, argued that he would bring a fresh perspective to the commission as both a business owner and a member of the residential community, two groups often seen as at odds—although Fuller says relations between residents and businesses have improved under Kuhns. 

Patrick Gossett, who served as a commissioner for nine years before choosing not to seek reelection in 2018, said he is running because he wants to use his experience and knowledge of Rehoboth to help the city recover from the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining a small-town feel.

Rachel Macha, a business executive and member of several city commissions, is running as a results-oriented problem solver and criticized candidates touting their experience in city government while still talking about the same issues that have affected Rehoboth for decades.

Jay Lagree, who Kuhns appointed to fulfill the remaining 10 months of his term after ascending to the mayor’s office, talked about the importance of nostalgia to Rehoboth and said that the city’s “charm is in our memories.”

Lagree often seemed at odds with the mayor during the forum. Lagree said Kuhns wants to turn Rehoboth into “another Ocean City,” an accusation Kuhns called “a lie.” Kuhns responded with a reality check of the economic pain wrought by the pandemic.  

“We are probably going to lose 30-40% of our businesses. We need economic development,” said Kuhns. “I’m looking through the windshield and not the rearview mirror.”

Perhaps the most controversial moment of the forum came with the last question. While elected officials in Rehoboth are non-partisan, the candidates were asked whether they support President Trump. Although several candidates objected to the inclusion of this question in the forum, all of them said they do not support Trump—with the exception of Lagree, who refused to answer.

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