Indiana US Senate candidates discuss hot topics of this year's election


Brad Ellsworth (D), Dan Coats (R), Rebecca Sink-Burris (L) Courtney Deckard and Alex Farris

Democrat Brad Ellsworth has been the 8th Congressional District U.S. Representative since 2007.  Before serving in Congress, he worked for 24 years in Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s office where he served two terms as sheriff.  

Ellsworth said he supports cutting the red tape for small businesses and creating a stable atmosphere.  

“A small mom and pop barber shop, a bicycle shop and a nail salon doesn’t have the resources to do the same things and research like a multi-national corporation,” Ellsworth said. “We have to make sure there is that access to capital.”

If elected, Ellsworth said he would work to keep jobs from going overseas.    

“One of the things we’re seeing China do right now is they’re taking currency, they’re taking advantage and they’re literally subsidizing their business making more instances to ship jobs there,” Ellsworth said. “As we negotiate trade agreements with other countries, we have to negotiate them favorably for us, at least on a narrow playing ground, and make sure we enforce those.”

During his term, Ellsworth said Congress was able to increase the availability of Federal Pell Grants, a program that provides need-based grants to low-income college students, and lower the program’s interest rates.  He also said through the Federal Stimulus plan, about $300 million was put into state universities in Indiana.

“I think we’ve done some really good things so far but again, education and higher education is going to be the key to the energy issues even to the foreign policy issues,” Ellsworth said. “The more educated work force we have the more available jobs we have.”

National Security
Ellsworth said he supports the Obama administration in their efforts to withdraw troops from Iraq.

“If they have the ability to take care of themselves, there comes a point where you have to take the training wheels off and I think we have reached that in Iraq and I think it’s time to wind back down and bring those troops home which we’re doing,” Ellsworth said.

While Obama has said he hopes to have troops out by 2012, Ellsworth said he is not a proponent of a “drop dead date.”

“I think once you start the process, it will naturally happen,” Ellsworth said.   

Gay Rights
While Ellsworth said he believes marriage is a union between one man and one woman, he voted to repeal the military policy, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which bans gay, lesbian and bisexuals from openly serving in the military.  

“I am a pro-life democrat; I don’t think there should be federal funds going to elected abortions,” Ellsworth said. He added that he supports funds for abortions in the instances of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is danger.

Republican Dan Coats, a graduate from the IU Law School, served as Indiana’s U.S. Senator from 1989 to 1999. He also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Indiana’s 4th congressional district from 1981 to 1989.  

Coats supports imposing a line-item veto to control spending and he said he opposes government earmarks.  

“I think we need to make some important decisions about how we spend money,” Coats said. “I don’t think we should be spending on any new programs right now unless it’s a dire urgency or unless people are willing to cut something else in government that will help to pay for that.”
If elected, Coats said he would like to shift the emphasis from higher education at four-year universities to vocational education.  

“We have enough room in schools providing four year degrees for those that want to do that, but I think what we’re short on is vocational education for those that are tying to learn technical skills that can be learned perhaps can be learned in a one or two-year frame,” Coats said.
Gay Rights
Coats helped author the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy and he said he does not support its repeal.

“I think the House of Representatives made a very bad mistake in going forward with that before even hearing from the military, which is doing a study to see if there needed to be adjustments to that,” Coats said. “I think it is a reasonable means of dealing with the issue. People are not denied service, but their behavior lifestyle can’t be such that it interrupts the morale of the fighting unit.”

Coats said he does not support gay marriage.

“I think marriage is between a man and a woman and that’s the way it has always been defined,” Coats said. “I don’t think we have to interfere with someone who chooses an alternative lifestyle, but I just don’t think it falls under the category of marriage.”

“I am a pro-life candidate and I’m in support of the National Right to Life as well as Indiana Right to Life,” Coats said.

National Security
Coats said he supports keeping troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think we need to stay there to accomplish our mission,” Coats said. “To walk away from that now, we would pay greater consequences for that in the future.”

If elected, Coats said he would support sending even more troops to Afghanistan to avoid a riskier situation in the future.

Libertarian Rebecca Sink-Burris, an IU graduate, is a former elementary art teacher.  

Sink-Burris supports the National FairTax as a way of improving business creation and increasing job growth.

“Economists who have looked at this — it has been studied for about 15 years now — believe our economy would double in 10 years under the FairTax,” Sink-Burris said. “It would be the middle class and the upper class who would be paying more as they choose to spend more money on goods and services.”

Sink-Burris said the National FairTax would significantly help the working poor.

“Democrats always talk about helping the poor, but they never suggest getting rid of some of the taxes and regulations that really are hurting the poor that are in place,” Sink-Burris said. “With the FairTax, the more money you spend, the more tax you pay, so low-income people who spend most of their money on just the necessitates month-to-month would not be paying much in that tax because that is rebated to them.”

Sink-Burris said she supports creating a competitive K-12 education system in which the money the state allocates per student would be given to the student’s family to send them to whatever institution they choose or to be home schooled.  

“Education is too important to be left to a government monopoly,” Sink-Burris said. “Competition almost always brings down price, increases quality, increases innovation and is there to help serve the customer.”

Sink-Burris also advocates cutting government funding of higher education.

“I see little need for tax money to be going to this — tax money that often is taken from people who will never be able to take advantage of college or even an Ivy Tech school or any other school,” Sink-Burris said. “I also believe that if we take some of the government money out of schools, it will become a little less pricey because when the government does something, they tend to overwhelm the costs.”

A pro-life candidate, Sink-Burris supports changing abortion from a state issue to a federal issue, but she does not support making abortion illegal.

“I very much advocate responsible behavior and the use of birth control,” Sink-Burris said. “If we want less abortions, there’s plenty of ways churches and community organizations can peacefully and persuasively work toward that.”

Gay Rights
Sink-Burris said she advocates for equal right among all citizens.

“A gay couple who got that civil contract should most certainly be allowed to inherit, to visit in the hospital — all the rights a married couple has traditionally,” Sink-Burris said. “There can’t be any tax differences or any privilege differences because that would mean you’re not being treated equal under the law.”  

Sink-Burris does not support the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy.

“It’s a ridiculous policy in my opinion,” Sink-Burris said. “Again, it’s not treating people equally and I think the military should definitely phase that policy out.”

National Security
If elected, Sink-Burris said she would work to withdraw troops from countries in Europe, North Korea, South Korea and Japan, and base foreign policies on trade and friendship.

“Those countries are perfectly wealthy enough to pay for their own defense and we can get quite a bit of savings and lessen our deficit by bringing our troops home from areas in the world where we don’t need to be any longer,” Sink-Burris said. “Sometimes having troops in locations where we really aren’t appreciated leads to more tensions.”

On the issue of weapons of mass destruction in countries such as North Korea and Iran, Sink-Burris said there are more ways to deal with the issue that stationing troops in those countries.

“Most of the countries that have weapons of mass destruction do not have the capability of delivering those weapons to our boarders and within this country,” Sink-Burris said.

Instead of using U.S. troops, Sink-Burris said other countries should use their own military forces.

“The countries around the Middle East have a very strong incentive to keep Iran from using and developing weapons of mass destruction,” Sink-Burris said.  “Let them use their treasure and some of their people to increase security in those areas.”

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