NewsPublic Affairs / May 11, 2020

14 Republicans Give Their Pitch At 5th Congressional District Primary Town Hall

14 Republicans Give Their Pitch At 5th Congressional District Primary Town Hall

Some of the Indiana 5th District Republican candidates during the virtual town hall Monday, May 11, 2020.

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Fourteen Indiana 5th District Republican candidates made their pitch Monday during a virtual town hall as to why voters should support them, in the sprawling primary field, to replace outgoing Congresswoman Susan Brooks

The event's question-and-answer format divided candidates into two sessions, and it gave them equal time and the same list of questions. The primary candidates represent a broad range in backgrounds, and some report raising no money for the race, while others have more than $100,000 in cash on hand, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Video: Watch the 5th District Town Hall

The pandemic was at the forefront of the questions. Most candidates praise President Donald Trump’s response but also warn of Congressional overspending and the overreach of stay-at-home orders by states focused on slowing the disease.

Most also agree the country’s healthcare system could be improved with fewer regulations and more choices for patients. Nearly all candidates decry a single-payer, national health insurance program, often called Medicare.

The rush to get in the Congressional race came in wake of Brooks’ surprise announcement last year she would not seek reelection, after a fourth term. She is one of just a few Republican women in the House.

Just three women are among the 15 republican candidates in the race --- Beth Henderson, a former nurse, Indiana State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and state Sen. Victoria Spartz.

A forum for the Democrat candidates, three women and one man, is 7 p.m. Tuesday. The live webstream can be viewed here.

The candidates took part in two seven-person online forums running a total of two hours. The organizer, Indiana Town Halls, set a format that offered no opportunity for the candidates to interact with each other. Instead, each was given a set time to answer the same questions. One candidate, Victor Wakley, did not take part.

The primary election is June 2.

Here are few of the issues discussed:

White House and COVID-19

Trump is a good leader when it comes to the response to the pandemic, says a majority of the candidates.

  • Henderson, the former nurse, said the administration is “doing a really good job … I think people are very anxious to get the economy up and running,” Henderson says. “I think they are doing that in a very responsible fashion.”
  • Carl Brizzi, a former Marion County prosecutor, says China has carried out a “cover-up” over the virus and that Trump and Pence “are the subject of Chinese propaganda.” He says, “They are doing everything they can possibly due to combat this virus.”
  • Not all agreed. Matthew Hook, a retired private-equity investor, rated Trump a “C-minus, or D-plus.”

Term Limits

All but two candidates favor term limits for members of Congress.

  • Mitchell says voters should be the ones to decide whether a Senator or representative remains in Washington.“I firmly believe that the voters should be the one to decide who is in and who is out of office. They get to decide every two years who gets to represent them," she says. "They are our employers.”
  • Allen Davidson, a former Democrat and staffer at Indiana Department of Environmental Management, worries term limits would force “good, reliable” lawmakers. “Force them into the lobbying profession where they could come back and try to influence the freshman,” he says.

Climate Change

Creating new technologies, clean and renewable, was favored by most candidates as a means to reduce pollution, such as Matt Hook.

  • Hook took issue with a new Indiana law that extends the life of coal-fired power plants. “That is the kind of crony capitalism that is going to kill us,” he says. “We need to be a leader in these clean energy technologies.”
  • But some questioned why the U.S. should do anything more to reduce carbon. Kent Abernathy, former chief of staff for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and U.S. Army veteran, says government overregulation does not help. “American’s simply can’t afford to bear all the burden of trying to slow climate change when other countries are getting a free ride on our effort,” he said, naming China and India.

Party Or Country First?

The candidates vowed to follow their own values and the Constitution, rather than blindly back GOP or Trump, no matter their initiative.

  • Andrew Bales, a retired teacher and U.S. Army veteran, says he agrees with Trump mostly. “I may be that one voice that goes against party lines, when everyone says ‘do this,’” he says. “I don’t like being whipped.”
  • Micah Beckwith says he adheres to Vice President Mike Pence’s famous response: that he’s “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order."
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