Newark cop announces state senate bid

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James Spadola, a Newark Police Department corporal whose “Hug a Cop” video gained widespread attention last year, is running for state senate.

Spadola, 32, will challenge Democrat Harris McDowell, who has been in office since 1976, in the November general election. The District 1 seat represents parts of Wilmington, Bellefonte and Claymont.

It will be the Trolley Square resident’s first foray into politics.

“I’ve been seeing the same faces dealing with the same problems and unable to solve them,” Spadola said. “At some point, we need a change.”

He thinks he can be that change, though he acknowledges he is in for a tough fight going against an entrenched incumbent and running as a Republican in a district that heavily leans Democratic.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle, but those are the types of challenges that get me out of bed in the morning,” he said, adding, “I need to convince people to vote for the person, not the party.”

A native of New Jersey, Spadola came to the state in 2001 to attend the University of Delaware. In the months following 9/11, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. During his sophomore year, his unit was mobilized, and he spent a year in Iraq serving in a military police battalion.

After returning stateside, he completed his political science degree and got a job working in the financial industry in New York. In 2008, he returned to Newark to join the Newark Police Department. Five years later, he assumed his current role as crime prevention/analyst officer and spokesman.

It was in that role that he gained prominence through a series of community engagement initiatives, namely the viral video in which he and another officer walked Main Street offering hugs to people walking by. Released last May, the video garnered more than 14 million views online and was replicated by several other police departments, including ones in foreign counties.
In an interview Tuesday, Spadola downplayed the impact of the name recognition that came from the video but noted that he had to convince other people in the police department that the video was a good idea.

“Lots of people wouldn’t have had the courage to do it, but we needed to do it,” he said. “That’s the same attitude I’d take to Dover.”

If elected, he wants to focus on constituent services as well as economic development initiatives. He said he wants to “play defense” against “scary talk” of a state sales tax to fix Delaware’s budget woes, and added that small business owners are worried about the impacts of a potential large increase to the minimum wage.

He said Wilmington’s crime problem needs to be addressed, but blaming the police is not the answer. He called for creative solutions, such as improving lighting to make streets safer at night.

Spadola said it’s too early to say whether winning the election would mean he would need to scale back his duties at the police department. Most state legislators work full-time jobs but depend on flexibility from their employers during the legislative session.

Source: Newark Post