INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Candidates for Indiana governor faced off Monday night in a town hall forum,
with Republican Eric Holcomb arguing for a continuation of the economic
development policies of governors Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels, while
Democrat John Gregg called for abandoning conservative social issues such as
the religious objections law that punctuated Pence’s time in office.
appeared alongside Libertarian Rex Bell and did not speak directly to or
debate each other. Rather they each answered questions asked by a moderator
or members of the audience.
The forum was to be
about economic development and the economy, but touched on gun rights,
immigration, LGBT rights and the degree to which the state should fund
pre-k. Where I’m from that’s something we laugh over,” said Gregg, a former
proposals include making state-funded optional preschool available for all
of Indiana’s some 80,000 4-year-olds, phasing in the program over three
years with an initial cost of $150 million from existing state funds.
Holcomb is supporting state-funded preschool only for low-income families,
saying a universal program being backed by Gregg could cost the state $500
million a year.
Holcomb sought to
align himself with the state’s popular former governor Daniels while
criticizing the fiscal management of state government in the late 1990s,
when Gregg was in power and the state cut taxes while expanding spending,
blowing through the state’s budget reserves.
“Our state was in
somewhat of a fiscal mess at that point,” said Holcomb.
Holcomb, whom Pence
appointed as lieutenant governor in March, has said the state’s balanced
budgets and strong reserves help attract business investment to Indiana. He
touted those policies for helping drop the state’s unemployment rate to 4.5
percent in August, below the national mark of 4.9 percent.
The meeting Monday
night was sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission and was moderated by
John Ketzenberger, president of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute.
The candidates have
one more debate scheduled, on health and social issues. It will take place
Oct. 25 at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.