By Shelby Mullis
Agricultural and rural issues took center stage at the Indiana State Fair Tuesday afternoon as the two candidates for lieutenant governor participated in a fairly friendly debate.
Nearly two hundred people were in attendance for what may be the only lieutenant governor debate between Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, and State Auditor Suzanne Crouch. Crouch only entered the race last week, as the Republican Party worked to fill the ticket after Gov. Mike Pence dropped out to become Donald Trump’s running mate.
Using the debate as a means of introducing themselves to the voters, Crouch and Hale addressed a number of issues at the state fairgrounds Tuesday, including the future of economic development in rural Indiana cities, the effect of urban migration on rural areas and the importance of agriculture in the state.
“Agriculture is business,” Hale said. “Agriculture is jobs. Agriculture is opportunity.”
Hale, who is running on the ticket with John Gregg, referred to their $3.2 billion plan that would strengthen the commitment to improve Indiana’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges.
“I absolutely believe that each one of our 92 counties count and are important,” Hale said. “All too often, economic development doesn’t make its way to rural Indiana, and we see this. There should be a tremendous amount of partnering, but certainly a focus and a very intentioned effort to ensure that we are connecting with every county.”
As Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Holcomb’s running mate, Crouch focused on three issues that she and Holcomb plan to tackle if elected to office — infrastructure, economic development and government partnership.
“We need to be sure that we partner and listen and collaborate with you,” Crouch said. “As your lieutenant governor, I will do that. And I want to serve you as your lieutenant governor and secretary of agriculture and rural development, and I want to help you move Indiana forward and solve the problems that bring people together.”
Tourism also proved to be a large topic of discussion between the two candidates, both agreeing that more money should be invested in bringing people to the Hoosier state.
The two candidates said they were pleased with their performance on the debate stage.
“It was a lot of fun to get to talk about these issues with my opponent Suzanne,” Hale said. “We have a lot of personal and professional respect for each other. She’s someone I consider a friend and this opportunity at our state fair to talk about agriculture with the agriculture community from around the state is just an honor and a really productive way to talk about the business for our state.”
For Crouch, the highlight of the debate was sharing her excitement for the future with Hoosiers.
“To me, [I look forward to] the opportunity to be able to serve Hoosiers and to be able to utilize my legislative executive and fiscal experience at the local and state level…,” Crouch said. “The ability to use that experience and to leverage and deliver results for our rural communities is what excites me.”
With less than 100 days left before Election Day, Crouch and Hale will continue to travel the state with their running mates to campaign.