From the campus of the University of Indianapolis Monday night, Indiana’s three gubernatorial candidates answered questions related to Indiana’s economy.
It was billed as a debate, but for anyone who ever participated in his/her college or high school speech and debate team, it should more appropriately be called a “question-and-answer” session.
The questions and the answers were predictable from each candidate. The questions ranged in topic from the environment and the excessive logging in the state to job creation and wages to the recent RFRA incident or debacle, dependent on whom you ask. And the candidates responded, as one would expect.
Libertarian Rex Bell held to his party’s line of “as little government as possible is the best government of all.” Republican Eric Holcomb stuck to his “party place marker” strategy by referring to all of the work the previous GOP governors have done. And Democrat John Gregg mentioned the multitude of plans he has created to better the state that are all available for viewing on his website.
Moderator John Ketzenberger, executive director of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, tried to mix it up with a question about the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the lower court’ ruling that Mike Pence’s call to deny the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state is unconstitutional.
Bell’s response was simple: discrimination is wrong, regardless of religion, nation of origin and everything else in civil rights law. Gregg talked about the waste of taxpayer money involved in defending frivolous lawsuits. And Holcomb fell back on his boss’s reasoning for the call, but quickly ended by saying that the state would abide by the court’s ruling (that is until they decide to take the challenge the U.S. Supreme Court, which for Pence and the attorney general is standard operating procedure).
Like I said, predictable.
Even when given the opportunity to really challenge each other on issues by addressing a topic of their choosing as well as rebutting on the issues of their opponents’ choosing, voters were left with more of the same.
When Eric Holcomb talked about finding ways to increase business creation and attracting talent for business, Gregg missed the opportunity to point out how the current social climate in Indiana regarding LGBTQ civil rights and the African-American relations (pardon Keith Cooper!) will continue to hold the state back in that business creation and talent attraction.
When asked why he should be governor, Holcomb missed the opportunity to set the standard for his own administration and even his own person and instead billed himself as an extension of Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence
, which can be a bit of an oxymoron in terms of policy and approach to the office.
Even all three of their suits and ties matched on some mundane level — variations of navy blue suits with shades of red ties.
Now granted, the program was limited to an hour (and constrained in that time by television intros and outros for the television viewers) and the Indiana Debate Commission wanted to touch on as many issues as possible in the allotted time. But the benefit of point-counterpoint was completely lost.
As we’ve learned from the presidential debates, pushing a candidate to defend their position and fall on their flag or sword tells a lot about him or her.
Unfortunately in Indiana, with two debates down (sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission) and one more to go October 25, we still don’t know any more about the candidates than we did last week or last month.