The University of Indianapolis hosted the Indiana Gubernatorial Debate on Oct. 3 in Ransburg Auditorium. The Indiana Debate Commission planned the debate among the three candidates for governor of Indiana, former Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives John Gregg (D), incumbent Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb (R) and businessman Rex Bell (L).
This debate was the second of three. The first was held at Lawrence North High School on Sept. 27, and the candidates discussed the topic of education. The final debate will be held at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville on Oct. 18 and will address healthcare and social issues. The debate at UIndy focused on the economy and jobs.
Vice President and Co-Chairman of the Debate Planning Committee Keith Robinson said before the event that he expected a nice, hardy debate.
“I would expect the candidates to want to get their positions out on the various issues that are brought up,” Robinson said. “I would hope for some difference of opinions that spur some lively debates.… The one that we had last week [the Sept. 27 debate] was subdued. I think the candidates were on their best behavior because they knew they had a student audience. We expect to see some differences emerge tonight.”
President of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute John Ketzenberger moderated the debate.
Although the topic of the debate was the economy and jobs, some questions were sprinkled in about social issues such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and incumbent Indiana Governor and Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence’s attempt at making a policy to prohibit Syrian refugees from entering the state of Indiana.
On the topic of expanding jobs in Indiana, Ketzenberger asked, “What does the state need to do to ensure that we keep up with job development?”
According to Holcomb, the staff just needs to keep doing what it is doing.
“The reason why Salesforce has just decided to move 800 more jobs to the state of Indiana…. Our dollar goes a lot further in Indiana,” Holcomb said. “Our low cost of living goes a lot further in Indiana than some of the states you are comparing us to.”
Bell agreed that Indiana has an affordable standard of living, and that the state needs to raise wages by drawing in more businesses.
“It is the best thing we can do, and it keeps the government’s hands out of it,” Bell said. “[It keeps] the government [from having] more regulations on us.”
According to Gregg, Hoosiers are working harder and getting less. He said he wants to focus on high-wage jobs in areas such as life sciences, biosciences and information technology.
When the candidates were asked a question regarding Syrian refugees and the court’s decision that blocking resettlement aid was discrimination, Holcomb said that he will continue to honor the court’s ruling.
“What is happening in Syria is heartbreaking, to say the least,” he said. “I understand where Governor Pence was when he made the decision—balancing and making sure we are keeping Americans safe. And when you hear the FBI director stand up before the country and say, ‘We don’t know if they are infiltrating this network,’ I understand where he [Pence] came from.”
Both candidates Bell and Gregg disagree with Pence and Holcomb. Gregg said this situation should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
“I disagree with what the governor has done, because it is wrong to ban someone based on their religion,” Gregg said. “It is wrong to ban people based on ethnicity, race, religion or nation of origin.”
Junior history major Dominic Peretin said he thought Gregg won the debate due to the personal level of concernment of infrastructure, which Peretin also cares about. According to Gregg, Indiana is falling further and further behind on infrastructure, but he and his running mate, State Representative Christina Hale, have a $3.2 billion infrastructure plan.
“The money is split into two pots, one for roads and bridges, and the other 60 percent goes to quality of life issues like drinking water, industrial water, storm sewers, cultural trails, green spaces and broadband,” Gregg said. “We need to come up with a plan that addresses our infrastructure for longer than two years or four years. Check out our infrastructure plan. No new taxes, and it doesn’t come out of a bond at all.”
Infrastructure was one of the issues Peretin agrees with.
“I am from Lake Country, which is all the way up north,” Peretin said. “I understood where he [Gregg] was coming from when he said we need to invest in our infrastructure and education because those are really big issues in my area. I liked his plans in terms of investment in our infrastructure. It’s over a 10-year period without raising taxes.”
Peretin enjoyed the debate and was surprised with how civil the candidates acted toward one another.
“Since we are used to the national level, I was thinking this debate might be a little more rambunctious, but I was surprised,” Peretin said. “They didn’t blatantly attack one another and say outrageous statements, but they kept it civil and kept it policy-based, which is what I really liked. I like policy debates and not so much personal attacks.”
This is not the first time UIndy has hosted such an event. According to President Robert Manuel, UIndy has hosted a national event with former senators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn about nuclear preparation.
Manuel said he was honored that the university hosted this debate. According to Manuel, the debate drew 700 people to campus and gave them a chance to see what our school is doing.
“I am proud of the hospitality we showed,” Manuel said. “I loved putting our school in the center of one of the biggest decisions that our state is going to make for the next four years.”