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Many Hoosier Republicans are refusing to debate

INDIANAPOLIS — In 2019, leaders of the Republican General Assembly declined to pass legislation that would have created an independent commission to re-elect boroughs. In 2021, they drew Congressional and Legislative maps that buffed the unilateral GOP advantage with which they control 71 of the 100 House seats and 39 of the 50 Senate districts.

Last summer they passed Senate Enrolled Act 1, which created the nation’s most far-reaching abortion restrictions on a bill that virtually no one testified on.

And now, on the home stretch of the 2022 midterm election, many Hoosier Republican officers are refusing to debate or even appear on bipartisan Women’s League voting forums.

Secretary of State nominee Diego Morales, CD 2 nominee Rudy Yakym and US Rep. Jim Banks have all declined to debate in recent days. The League of Women Voters of Hamilton County forum with Indiana Statehouse race candidates became a one-sided affair after all five invited Republicans decided not to attend, according to website Current in Carmel. They included State Senator Jim Buck and Representatives Donna Schaibley, Jerry Torr and House nominees Alex Choi and Fred Glynn.

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Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Mario Massillamany said he told Republican candidates not to attend. “I feel like we’ve been treated unfairly in the past,” Massillamany told the Current. “In the past, candidates have been attacked. I thought it was more important for us as Republicans to knock on doors and involve voters one-on-one.”

Democratic State Senator JD Ford tweeted, “My opponent failed to show up at a bipartisan (not even a debate) candidate forum last Tuesday. It is disrespectful to voters using these forums to make an informed decision about who to vote for. It is also sad for democracy that these candidates would rather not show up than face the voters.”

Rep. Banks, who chairs the House Republican Study Committee, withdrew from a WANE-TV debate scheduled for later this month. “It’s a date where we have a commitment,” Banks explained. “On October 27th, I made a long-time commitment to the Topeka Crisis Pregnancy Center in LaGrange County and am very excited to speak with them.”

Independent 3rd CD nominee Nathan Gotsch responded, “It’s so important that voters can see the candidates together so they can compare them and make the best decision in November.” Democratic nominee Gary Snyder added, “If You can’t come back and face the problems and the voters, then you don’t really have to be in Washington.”

Morales, who has faced allegations of sexual harassment and reports that he is an election denier who was twice fired by former Republican secretaries of state Todd Rokita and Charlie White, declined to debate with Democrat Destiny Wells and libertarian Jeff Mauer. His campaign says Morales is focused on performing in all 92 boroughs.

“If your ideas are so bad that you can’t even stand up in front of a crowd, your neighbors, to defend them, then something is wrong,” Mauer said. “You need better ideas.”

In 2012, Republican US Senate nominee Richard Mourdock appeared at a debate with Democrat Joe Donnelly and said that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape, “that’s something that God intended.” His support collapsed among independent voters, handing Donnelly an angry victory. Similarly, Republican Senate candidate from Missouri, Todd Akin.

A decade later, the mainstream Republican position on abortion restrictions is to push for a total ban, even though Indiana’s SEA1, signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, includes exceptions for rape, incest, and mother’s life. Many Legislative Republicans are expected to try to end these exemptions in January. This is despite the fact that many polls show broad support for access to abortion. A recent poll by ARW Strategies for Indy Politics found that 51% of voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate in the state Senate and House of Representatives this fall who supports abortion rights, while 35% say they that they are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes abortion.

There are other countercurrents that leave a confused picture. Tom Bonier, CEO of Target Smart, puts the gender gap in voter registration in Indiana according to Dobbs at 6% in favor of women. Reporter Dave Bangert of the Lafayette-based Substack site reports that ballot-by-mail applications in Tippecanoe County have doubled for the last half of 2018, with Secretary Julie Roush saying, “The number of ballot-by-mails is for an election like.” this unprecedented.”

Bonier observed the “Dobbs effect” on Oct. 1, saying, “The red wave is no longer inevitable and the notion that we as younger voters and women are likely to see a very close outcome in both the Senate and House of Representatives get involved.” in this election.”

This is a continuation of what I see as a troubling trend in Hoosier politics, where self-funding candidates like US Representative Trey Hollingsworth have refused to debate or even visit town halls in their districts.

Not all Republicans disagree. US Senator Todd Young has accepted an Indiana Debate Committee event scheduled for October 16 where he will appear with Democratic nominee Thomas McDermott Jr. and Libertarian James Sceniak.

A final thought: if you are a candidate who dreads debate or even appearing on public forums to explain your political positions to voters, you should choose a different field of work.

Brian Howey is Editor of Howey Politics Indiana. Follow him on Twitter @hwypol. The opinions are those of the author.

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