New Delaware AG vows to tackle violent crime that has plagued state, increase police patrols

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NEWARK, Delaware — First, Matt Denn was insurance commissioner. Then he became lieutenant governor. Now, he's Delaware's attorney general.

Denn, currently the Democratic lieutenant governor, won election to a third statewide office Tuesday, expanding a political resume that already had him being seen by many political observers as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2016.

But a shot at a fourth potential statewide office will have to wait. For now, Denn is concentrating on tackling the violent crime that has plagued Delaware, particularly its largest city, in recent years.

"My focus is going to be on reducing violent crime and homicides in Delaware," Denn said after his victory Tuesday. "... It's more than just Wilmington, but the disproportionate number have been happening in the city."

Denn's strategy for reducing violent crime includes increasing visible police patrols in high-crime areas, focusing on prosecuting gun crimes and crimes involving drug dealers, and working to ensure violent criminals are not released while awaiting trial. Denn said more also needs to be done to address the underlying causes of crime, including substance abuse.

Many of those same strategies have been tried under current attorney general Beau Biden with little success. And much of what Denn proposes is outside the authority of the attorney general.

"It's going to require cooperation between different government jurisdictions and law enforcement," said Denn, who filed his candidacy just days after Biden announced in April that he would not seek re-election. "It's going to require the help of the General Assembly in terms of funding some of the initiatives, and it's going to require in some cases some inward focus in the attorney general's office when it comes to things like prioritizing certain types of prosecutions."

Meanwhile, Denn's latest election will leave Delaware without a lieutenant governor for the next two years. After Denn entered the race, lawmakers were unable to agree on whether to amend the constitution to allow for the filling of a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office.

While Denn is a veteran politician, political newcomer Ken Simpler will be taking the reins of the state treasurer's office. Simpler became the first non-incumbent Republican to win a statewide race in Delaware in 20 years when he defeated Democrat Sean Barney, a former aide to Jack Markell and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. Markell and Carper, both Democrats, began their political careers as Delaware treasurer, using the post as a stepping stone to higher office.

Simpler, chief financial officer of a family-run hotel management business and a former hedge fund manager, said he would carry his campaign mantra of "a finance guy for a finance job" with him into the treasurer's office. During the campaign, he repeatedly stressed the importance of working closely with fellow members of Delaware's Cash Management Policy Board to ensure the best possible investment returns for the state's $1.8 billion cash portfolio.

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