With Election Day a week away, the three candidates for the Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat met on-stage for the second and final debate Tuesday at Newfields.
All three continued to follow the scripts crafted in television ads and in the prior debate. Incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly emphasized his middle-of-the-road approach and willingness to work with both parties, Republican challenger Mike Braun stressed his real-world experience and Libertarian Lucy Brenton advocated for smaller government.
In the closely contested race, polls show that Donnelly and Braun have each traded slight leads, depending on the poll, leaving Brenton as the wild card with enough support to tip the race to one candidate or the other.
She has embraced her role of “spoiler,” saying, “Something doesn’t spoil unless it’s rotten.”
During the hour-long event, sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission, the candidates used the forum to attack each other while spelling out their views on some of the biggest issues facing the nation.
Moderator Amna Nawaz, PBS NewsHour anchor, for the most part kept the candidates focused on the questions.
When they were asked whether they supported President Donald Trump’s policy backing Saudi Arabia after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi, Donnelly and Brenton offered lengthy answers before they said they do not.
Braun used the question to attack the previous administration’s foreign policy and said Trump was restoring America’s place in the world. When pressed by Nawaz to answer the question, Braun replied that he supports Trump’s policies and believes the president will hold Saudis accountable for the murder.
The candidates also sparred over health care when the candidates were asked about what they would do to keep health insurance premiums affordable.
Brenton argued that it is important to get government out of health care while Braun said that this is a problem he tackled in his Jasper distribution business. Donnelly countered that Braun’s employees have deductibles as high as $10,000 a year and that the challenger would overturn protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
The debate also covered topics from birthright citizenship, border security and foreign policy to contraceptives, unintended pregnancies and sexual assault.
On the question of how the candidates would combat hunger in Indiana, Donnelly pointed to the farm bill which has provisions for food assistance and school lunch programs. Braun called for an overhaul of programs so resources would be used more efficiently while Brenton said the issue should be dealt with at the state level.
When asked about their top priorities if elected, the candidates went in separate directions.
Donnelly said his top priority to address would be combatting the opioid scourge.
“I just had legislation passed just this past week that President Trump signed that will provide us with advanced FDA approval to end the opioid scourge,” he said, explaining the law will provide Eli Lilly advanced FDA approval for a non-addictive painkiller that will take place of opioids.
Braun said his top priority would be to lower the cost of health care, something he said the Affordable Care Act was supposed to do.
“I want to lower the cost of health care to where it is affordable, what the original bill was supposed to do,” Braun said. He noted his track record of covering pre-existing conditions with no lifetime cap in the insurance plan provided at his company.
Brenton said her top priority if elected would be to reduce the size of the federal government.
“The top priority is and always will be reducing the size of the government, putting a muzzle on it and making the federal government stay to the simple constitution,” Brenton said.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
James Polston is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.