Former DNREC chief O’Mara weighs bid for governor

51
Advertisement

The Democratic primary race for Delaware governor could see a new face.

Collin O’Mara, former Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and current CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, filed a campaign committee with the State Elections Commission to explore a run for governor in the 2024 primary. O’Mara and his family reside in Bear.

A release said O’Mara has been encouraged to run by a growing number of Delawareans who want a campaign focused on real solutions to the “immense challenges we face.”

“Delaware needs a new generation of leadership. The serious challenges we face – from not enough well-paying jobs and underperforming schools to the existential threat of climate change and the interrelated crises of poverty, unaffordable housing, inaccessible healthcare, and crime – demand not only serious debate but sustainable and equitable solutions for our future,” O’Mara stated.

The announcement comes as Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long struggles with campaign finance issues from past elections. Her spouse headed those efforts, including a controversy over the theft of signs during one of Hall-Long’s State Senate campaigns. He is not the finance chief for the current campaign.

Advertisement

Also in the field is New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, who has been citing accomplishments that included a lack of scandals in a post where predecessors have often been in the headlines.

The finance report issue led to her campaign being put on pause for a time. According to some reports, a three-way race might also work against Meyer, who cannot count Gov. John Carney as a fan. Carney is in his second and last term and is exploring a campaign for Wilmington mayor.

O’Mara spent his career in government positions. He was Secretary of DNREC from 2009 to 2014 under Governor Jack Markell.He was part of a team under Markell that brought new blood into cabinet posts that his successor, John Carney, typically filled with long-time state employees. Markell became the U.S. Ambassador to Italy after serving in a diplomatic post in Paris.

The release cited actions that reduced air pollution, enacted statewide recycling, built clean energy, and expanded public trails, parks, and wildlife refuges.

He was also instrumental in efforts to bring Bloom Energy’s plant to Delaware. That effort has been marked by controversy over the added price for electricity fed into the grid by Bloom servers. He also brought a fresh focus to the state parks system that included adding the Go Ape treetop zipline concession to Lums Pond State Park in Bear.

O’Mara currently heads of the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest conservation organization with seven million members.

The release also cited his efforts in securing hundreds of millions of federal dollars for Delaware to advance environmental justice, natural resource restoration, clean water, community resilience, and clean energy investments, including the recently announced Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub.

In his campaign, Meyer highlights the use of pandemic funds in buying a former hotel as the Hope Center short-term homeless complex and pioneering the use of monitoring sewage to detect the presence of Covid-19 and, more recently, dangerous drugs.

The county received an initial $300 million windfall of Covid-19 funds under legislation that assumed counties had a role in operating health and other human services departments. In Delaware, the state handles those activities. Meyer later sent some of the funds to the state and the other two counties.

The County Executive platform gives Meyer media exposure s at ribbon cuttings and other events. Hall-Long’s use of her office for similar activities has been more limited in a post that some critics claim is not needed in a smaller state.

O’Mara was the youngest cabinet secretary in the nation when Governor Markell appointed him to serve as Secretary of Natural Resources in 2009 at 29.

He also served asd Economic Development Officer and Clean Tech Strategist for the City of San José, CA and assistant Budget Director for the City of Syracuse, NY.

O’Mara graduated from Carney’s alma mater, Dartmouth College and Oxford University.

His wife Krishanti served as Policy Director for First Lady Michelle Obama and currently leads a large immigration nonprofit.. Their three daughters are 11, six, and seven months old.

Advertisement
Advertisement