CONWAY — Maryland congressman-turned-presidential hopeful John Delaney may not be the flashiest member of the crowded Democratic field, but on a visit Monday to the Sun, he came across as likable and capable, with a platform that addresses problems like climate change and affordable health care.
Not only that, but the 56-year-old Delaney was the first candidate in memory to not only not arrive late to an editorial board meeting but was actually a minute early.
Delaney represented Maryland's 6th congressional district from 2013-19. He chose not to run again in 2018.
Delaney's website — johndelaney.com — says he started two companies by the time he turned 40. He had an estimated net worth of $93 million in 2016. He bills himself as a pro-capitalism Democrat who cares about workers.
"I think I'm the best person to beat Trump because you need a moderate to beat Trump," said Delaney. "This is going to be fought in the center."
With his close-cropped hair, checkered shirt and navy blazer, Delaney certainly looked like a moderate. Grinning frequently, and using phrases like "darn exciting," he noted that he feels the Democratic Party's perceived socialist bent is a problem.
During the 50-minute editorial board, Sun Publisher Mark Guerringue asked for Delaney's stance on immigration on the southern border, where thousands of Central Americans are coming to the U.S. to seek asylum.
Delaney said he's been to the U.S.' southern border twice in the past year. One visit two months ago, with wife, April, was to Dilley, Texas, where the largest detention center in the U.S. is located. At the time, 1,700 women and children were there, seeking asylum.
April Delaney just stepped down as chair of the board of Georgetown Law Center. The Delaneys sponsored the trip, taking 14 law students and two professors to help asylum-seekers with their applications.
"Every story is pretty much the same: 'They killed one of my kids, I went to the authorities and police, and they are completely in bed with the gangs, and they said unless the other kids join them, they would kill them, too, so I left,'" said Delaney, who with his wife has four daughters. "You sit there, and you are, like, 'everyone would leave.'"
The solution, says Delaney, is for the U.S. to facilitate stabilizing the Central American countries, although he conceded that the U.S. "doesn't have a great track record" for nation building.
"What we do have is some partners like Mexico and others that can probably be more effective with our support," said Delaney. "What I would do is immediately convene a summit, maybe in Mexico City, with all the countries that are affected by this or need to be affected, and as the leader of the United States, you will get a lot of countries at the table, and you say, 'We have to solve the problem.'"
Asked why as a millionaire many times over, he is a Democrat, not a Republican, Delaney said as the son of a union electrician, he was raised with the belief that Democrats are the party that helps the average working person.
Delaney got into business after graduating from Georgetown Law School. He said he and several classmates purchased a Washington, D.C.-area home health-care company for $15,000.
They turned it around and sold it, but through that experience, Delaney said he discovered that banks weren't giving loans to health-care companies. So, he created a second company to create loans to small to mid-size health-care companies.
"I took that company public, and then I sold that company to GE Capital," said Delaney. "During the time I ran that business, I financed 1,000 health-care companies all over this country."
After that, he created another company called Capital Source that financed companies in a range of industries.
"I'm completely comfortable going toe-to-toe with Trump on capitalism," said Delaney. "His dad gave him 400 million bucks — if he put it in the stock market, he would be wealthier now than he is.
"The only thing my dad did for me is help me carry in the furniture to my first company," Delaney added with a laugh.
In terms of fixing health-care, Delaney said he would create a government option for health insurance similar to Medicare. He said since Medicare doesn't pay all medical costs, under his plan employers would offer supplemental plans. He said government-run health care has never worked well because programs like Medicaid and Medicare don't cover all a provider's costs.
As far as global warming goes, Delaney said, "If you care about climate change, you can't be anti-nuclear."
He also would propose a carbon tax in which the money raised would return to the American people. He was confident the proposal would pass with a bipartisan vote as coastal states that are most affected by climate change — Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas — all have Republican senators.
He also would call for a fivefold increase in the Department of Energy's research budget, which would bring the total to $30 billion.
Then he would work to create a market for negative emissions technology which is technology that sucks carbon out the air and pumps it into the Earth.
"It's like an air filter," said Delaney, adding the machines are "super expensive."
However, if there's a market for those machines the price would go down, he said. To pay for this market, Delaney would reallocate the $5 billion per year the federal government offers in tax breaks for fossil company subsidies for the government to purchase carbon from the cheapest seller.
Delaney freely admits he's not the most exciting man in the race but he has ideas for how to fix the country.
"Unfortunately, what gets a lot of attention on social media are not the kind of things I'm running on," said Delaney. "You get rewarded on social media for saying the most outrageous things; you don't get rewarded on social media for actually saying, 'Hey I've got a way to actually expand early education, which is actually the best investment we make in this country."
In a nod to diversity, Delaney said he would choose as woman as his vice president.
Asked if he'd seen articles in The New York Times about UFOs, Delaney said he hadn't seen the articles, but parried with "I generally have liked science fiction-oriented movies."
Sports editor Lloyd Jones asked which three people throughout history he would like to eat dinner with.
Delaney drummed his fingers on the leather chair for a few seconds before naming his picks: Jesus, Martin Luther King and (tied for third) George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Bruce Springsteen, whom he said he's seen 30 times in concert.
Jones also asked Delaney what inspires him.
"Solving problems," Delaney replied. "I would be happy if when I'm done being president, I addressed all the important issues of the day fixing public education, dealing with climate change, changing the fiscal trajectory of the country, having a strategy for artificial intelligence, fixing immigration, re-establishing the United States as kind of the positive force in building the world order, and I'd be totally happy if everyone else got the credit for it."