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The two months since Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long announced her 2024 candidacy for governor have hardly been a smooth ride for the veteran politician.
Seriously bumpy is more like it, with perhaps plenty more turbulence looming.
The two-term incumbent Democrat received the immediate and wholehearted endorsement of Gov. John Carney when she announced her candidacy on Sept. 12. Yet barely two weeks later she had canceled fund-raising events — even one Carney was to host — and suspended all fund-raising, after members of her campaign staff and supporters raised pointed questions about campaign finance reports Hall-Long had filed from 2016 through 2022, according to three sources who have assisted the campaign.
Specifically, the sources said Hall-Long stalled for months before providing officials with the campaign bank records that formed the basis for the reports. When she did share the bank records, the sources said, several staffers and volunteers were alarmed to find several payments totaling more than $200,000 during that seven-year period to her husband Dana Long, her longtime campaign treasurer.
Those payments had not been disclosed in her campaign finance reports that are available to the public. Delaware law requires that all loans and repayments must be documented in campaign finance reports.
Gov. Bethany Hall has amended her campaign finance reports for the last seven years to fix what she has called “categorization errors” in reporting loans she made to the campaign and payments made to her husband. (State of Delaware)
Though her campaign told prospective donors in an email that Carney’s planned Sept. 19 event to “honor” Hall-Long was being postponed so she “can attend to a personal, private matter,’’ the real reason was the revolt within the campaign over the payments to her husband, the sources said.
Carney did not respond to requests to his office for comment about the controversy swirling around his handpicked successor.
The sources said Hall-Long later told members of the 2024 team that she had loaned money to the campaign over the years, and had used her credit cards to pay campaign expenses. She said the undisclosed checks to her husband were repayments of those undisclosed loans, the sources said.
While Hall-Long had previously disclosed two loans totaling $70,000 during that period, according to reports reviewed by WHYY News, that’s barely a third of the amount repaid to her husband during that time.
Two sources said several people involved in the campaign were unsatisfied with her explanations and urged her to quit the race. They said she initially agreed to step aside, but then decided to remain a candidate for governor.
The slow response in producing spending records, the payments to her husband, and the failure to disclose them and other expenses led campaign manager Brandon Cox and chief fundraiser Jennifer Mueller to abruptly quit along with several volunteers within days of her campaign launch at the Wilmington riverfront, the sources said.
The veteran operatives who spoke to WHYY News about the tumultuous events in Hall-Long’s campaign requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the insular political world in one of America’s smallest states. Cox and Mueller did not respond to requests for an interview.
To date, Hall-Long has not hired a new campaign manager or chief fundraiser for a race expected to cost far more than $1 million to win the job overseeing an annual operating budget now at $5.6 billion and all state government departments, from the state police to transportation to health and social services. Along with a two-decade political career, Hall-Long is a longtime University of Delaware nursing professor.
She will face second-term New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer in a Democratic primary in September. No Republican has yet announced a candidacy for the November general election in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1 and hold all nine statewide elective offices.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, who is opposing Hall-Long in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, he and other Delawareans still have “a lot more questions than answers” about her campaign finances. (Courtesy of Matt Meyer)
‘I regret the errors and confusion this has caused’
Bethany Hall-Long and Dana Long would not agree to an interview with WHYY News about the turmoil that roiled her campaign just as it was getting started.
She did not deny or even address the accounts shared with WHYY News in a written statement provided by her campaign, except to say, “I regret the errors and confusion this has caused, although unintentionally done.”
The rest of her statement noted that last week she “released seven years worth of amended filings that convey the results’’ of an audit she had announced on Sept. 28. “These amendments reflect loans and expenses that were incorrectly categorized, and identify the amounts of these loans as well as reimbursements.
Hall-Long’s statement added that she’s “open to policies that seek to improve transparency. We should always be looking for ways to improve our systems and how our government functions. Our campaign is moving forward and laser-focused on making Delaware the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”
The amended filings encompass all reports of the Committee to Elect Bethany Hall-Long since 2016 — the year she first ran for lieutenant governor — through 2022, the last report on record. All the original and amended reports her campaign filed during that period can be found on the Department of Elections’ campaign finance website.
The amended reports now show several loans from Hall-Long totaling $308,134 since 2016, and repayments of $206,985, though Dana Long is not listed as the recipient of the money.
“Hall-Long has personally loaned the campaign $101,149.35 more than she has been repaid,’’ the campaign said in a written statement issued Friday when the amended reports were announced.
Campaign spokeswoman Christine Freundlich told WHYY News this week that while the latest report for calendar year 2022 shows a loan balance of more than $100,000, Hall-Long “has no plans to repay herself” any of that money from contributions she has received this year or money she receives in the future. Her campaign finance report for 2023 must be submitted to the state Department of Elections in January.
Dana Long had been listed as his wife’s campaign treasurer in reports before 2016, but was not listed as treasurer in either the original or amended reports from 2016 to 2022. No one was listed as treasurer in the original reports for those years, but Hall-Long is listed as signing them electronically. The amended reports list Cheryl Webb as treasurer.
The lieutenant governor previously represented the Middletown area of southern New Castle County from 2002 to 2016 in the state House and Senate. Campaign reports for those years were not part of the campaign’s internal review of fund-raising and spending records.