First gubernatorial debate highlights education, crime, job creation
In the September Howey-DePauw General Election Survey, Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, was ahead 13 percent for registered Indiana voters surveyed.
PENCE - 47%
GREGG - 34%
BONEHAM - 5%
ZIONSVILLE — At Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate, Indiana’s three candidates used questions to highlight their platforms and engage each other.
On stage in front of a live audience at the Zionsville Performing Arts Center at Zionsville Community High School, candidates Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham covered ground on topics from education to crime to job creation.
They also drew their own platforms and positions into the
Pence made repeated reference to his “Roadmap for Indiana” plan, while Boneham called himself “the change” and Gregg advocated bipartisanship.
The debate format was a mixed bag. Public participants submitted questions both in person and via letter. Topics included educational outcomes, the cost of college tuition, mental health in education, the Affordable Care Act and the role of unions.
And midway through the debate, in what moderator and former Indianapolis Star editor and vice president Dennis R. Ryerson called a “nod to the Lincoln-Douglas approach to debating,” candidates also debated statements made to one another.
Bobbie Craig of Osgood, Ind., asked candidates via a submitted question how they would make state college tuition more affordable within 10 years, how they would cut debt and provide useful skills.
Pence praised IU’s new incentive program for four-year degree completion.
“A four-year degree is, by definition, more affordable than a five-year degree,” Pence said.
Gregg, a former Vincennes University president, praised previous governors for increasing higher education options around the state.
“It’s time that we have a serious discussion about putting a freeze on tuition,” Gregg said. He also advocated auditing universities in order to track state tax dollars.
Boneham said voters have expressed struggles during their first year of university classes.
“That is taking time away from your first year of college, to go back and redo what you should have learned in high school,” Boneham said.
During the candidate discussion segment, Pence asked fellow candidates how they would balance the state’s budget and assure fiscal integrity. He also opened the door for a back-and-forth between himself and Gregg.
Gregg began by advocating bipartisanship in Congress then shifted to discussing Pence’s record.
“There’s candidate Mike Pence, and there’s Congressman Mike Pence,” Gregg said.
He said Pence missed 86 percent of his votes on the House Judiciary Committee and never passed a piece of legislation.
In his wrap-up, Pence criticized Gregg for this tactic and said Gregg wasn’t acting like himself. He also countered Gregg’s accusation with a statistic of his own, saying he had a 95 percent attendance record in Congress, a separate record than what Gregg was alluding to.
Boneham was often cut off while the candidates went back and forth.
“Maybe the reason you didn’t answer the question about fiscal responsibility is because for five of the six years that you were Speaker of the House, Indiana ran deficits,” Pence said.
After the debate, the candidates defended their tactics. Pence called the debate “substantive and civil.” He said his record is available on his website but encouraged voters to move forward.
“I didn’t take any swings at him tonight,” Gregg said afterward. “All I did was just point out the facts.”
The next Indiana gubernatorial debate will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 in South Bend in front of a live audience.
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