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Gubernatorial candidates clash

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center hosted Indiana’s three gubernatorial candidates Wednesday in the second of three debates leading up to Election Day.

In the “final statements” portion of the occasionally hostile proceedings, Republican candidate Republican candidate Mike Pence described the hour-long debate as “spirited and memorable,” in reference to a few lingering barbs from his principal opponent, Democratic candidate John Gregg.

Gregg, the former Indiana Speaker of the House, challenged Pence directly on several fronts.

“If you’re going to be governor, you’ve got to work every day,” Gregg said, after accusing Pence of missing 86 percent of his votes on the Hill.
Gregg said Pence exaggerated his accomplishments in Washington.

“Mike, I heard you last time and this time when you said you’re one of the hardest working [members of Congress]. I looked up that article, and that’s you quoting yourself, saying you’re one of the hardest working,” Gregg said. “This race is about needing a work horse and not a show horse, and to be candid, you wouldn’t even be a show horse: You’d be down to being a one-trick pony.”

The two candidates also sparred over family values. While responding to a question from Amy Leonard, a single mother and full-time student working as a waitress in Mishawaka, Gregg suggested Pence does not consider households headed by a single parent to be legitimate families.

“He’s got a program that he wants to focus on families, but only ‘mom and dad’ families -married couples,” Gregg said. “I’m a single parent, too, and I take great offense that his family plan doesn’t consider me and my boys a family. Maybe he doesn’t think you and your kids are a family, either.”

Pence refuted that statement at the press conference immediately following the debate.

“Of course I consider [Leonard and her children] a family,” Pence said. “My wife, Karen, was raised by a single mom and my sister’s a single mom. She’s a family – I love her and her kids. Families come in all shapes and sizes.”

Pence said the policies Gregg referred to are not meant to delegitimize single parent families, but are simply a means of aiding married couples and helping them stay together.

“Our proposal for family impact statements is an attempt to address childhood poverty,” Pence said. “It’s really been recognized by scholars on the left and on the right that one of the most effective ways to reduce childhood poverty is to encourage more young people to get married, stay married and wait to have kids until they marry. And we want to make sure there’s nothing in Indiana’s regulations going forward that gets in the way of people choosing to get married and stay married.”

Gregg also criticized Pence’s record on education policy. Although Pence praised the role of Indiana’s universities, Gregg, who served as interim president of Vincennes University from 2003 to 2004, said Pence would not properly fund higher education as governor.

“All the jobs in the world don’t mean anything unless we have a well-educated and well-trained work force,” Gregg said. “We need to make Pell Grants available for college. My opponent, Congressman Pence, talks about affordability of college, but voted against Pell Grants.”

Pence argued college educations could be made more affordable if schools made concerted efforts to graduate students on time.

“The truth is that less than a third of our kids who go to public universities in Indiana finish a four-year degree in four years,” Pence said. “That’s putting a tremendous burden on our kids in the manner of student loans and debt, and frankly it’s resulting in a burden on our universities as well.”

Libertarian candidate and former “Survivor” contestant Rupert Boneham avoided name-calling and accusations, instead focusing on community issues he encountered through Rupert’s Kids, his foundation for young people who have aged out of the youth social services system.

During his turn in the Lincoln-Douglas section of the debate, when the candidates had the opportunity to ask each other their own questions, Boneham chose to focus on Indiana’s correctional facilities, which he said will soon be above capacity.

“Are we going to continue to lock up every person who breaks the law, no matter how petty the law is, no matter if it is hurting themselves or others?” Boneham asked. “I don’t want to be a state that builds the economy on incarceration. I want to be the state that actually builds the state on work and workers. When we lock everyone up and stamp that felony on their head, even for hurting themselves, they struggle with going to work for the rest of their lives.”

The third and final gubernatorial debate will be broadcasted live Thursday from the PBS studios in Fort Wayne.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]