VIDEO: Ind. Governor Candidates Keep It Civil In Final Debate
By Mike Perleberg
(Evansville, Ind.) – Indiana’s gubernatorial debates have been much less confrontational than any of the presidential debates.
The Hoosier state’s three gubernatorial nominees – Democrat John Gregg, Republican Eric Holcomb, and Libertarian Rex Bell – met for their third and final debate at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville Tuesday evening.
While the candidates disagreed on a number of issues, they were mostly respectful toward one another. Moderator Mizell Stewart III, former editor of the Evansville Courier & Press, credited the candidates for the “tone and civility” with which they approached the debates organized by the Indiana Debate Commission.
Tuesday’s debate centered around health care and social issues. Heroin, and the expansion of needle exchange programs in particular, was the first topic asked about by an audience member.
“We need to continue to explore every way that we can to not just solve the problem for one community, but to really kill the drug epidemic itself,” said Holcomb, later stating that he would back legislative action to widen the state’s allowance of needle exchanges.
Gregg propped up his seven-point public safety plan, which makes drugs a main focus. He called for the state to take on the drug problem as a medical issue, not a crime issue.
“We need to realize that rehabilitation works. For every dollar that we put into rehab, we save $4 in public health dollars and $7 in the criminal justice system,” Gregg said.
Gubernatorial candidates John Gregg (left) and Eric Holcomb high five at the debate held Tuesday, October 25. Photo by Alex Slitz, Evansville Courier & Press.
The candidates were also asked about the role their faith would play in their decision-making as governor. All three professed themselves as Christians. Gregg said he would respect all people.
“I’m not running to force my ideology or my faith on someone else,” said Gregg. “I’d rather people know I’m a person of faith by my actions.”
Holcomb stated that he tries to live out his faith. He said there are many lessons in “the good book” that he uses privately for instruction, and would continue to take that approach as governor. Bell said as a Libertarian he doesn’t believe religion should factor into governing.
The candidates were even asked about the legalization of Sunday carry-out alcohol sales – Indiana is one of the last states with such a post-Prohibition blue law still in place. Bell drew agreeable laughs from the audience when he stated that he believes what is legal on Saturday should also be legal on Sunday. Holcomb said he is against changing the Sunday sale law, arguing that Hoosiers who want to drink on Sunday can plan accordingly the other six days of the week. Gregg said he would probably sign a bill changing the law if it made it to his desk.
Photo by Alex Slitz, Evansville Courier & Press.
Promising to be a governor that will unite, Gregg added that he will focus on the Indiana economy and education if elected governor. He said transparency is important in helping citizens understand, and not fear, their government.
Holcomb said he’ll serve as governor looking through the lens of a taxpayer. He said he would also strive to be the most accessible governor in the state’s history.
Bell, a businessman, positioned himself as a true Libertarian.
“My plan for Indiana is to get government out of your way. There are things we think individuals can do better than the government can do,” he said.
Bell also proposes the property tax for businesses and individuals as a means of attracting jobs, putting all road use taxes put back into road infrastructure, and restore local control of education.
Many were surprised that the LGBT rights issue in Indiana was not covered in the debate, especially considering that it was supposed to focus on social issues. Gregg has on record stating that he wants to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and add LGBT protections to state law. Bell has also stated he is against RFRA. Holcomb has downplayed the issue as one he won’t spend much effort on because the legislature has been unable to pass such legislation.
The winner of the Indiana gubernatorial race will succeed Governor Mike Pence, who opted not to run for re-election in order to become Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.