Time for gubernatorial candidates to get real on the real issues

March 22, 2024 7:00 am

Indiana’s six Republican gubernatorial candidates. Images of Mike Braun, Brad Chambers, Suzanne Crouch, Eric Doden and Curtis Hill by Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle. Image of Jamie Reitenour courtesy Reitenour campaign. (Graphic by Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Up until now, the GOP gubernatorial candidates have mostly fallen back on national talking points. But that does a disservice to Hoosier voters who want their next governor to be focused on Indiana issues.

And despite what many of their ads say, that’s not China or the southern border or even online safety — which are largely federal issues.

It appears that even Gov. Eric Holcomb is getting impatient. Though he has declined to endorse any candidates, he recently had some interesting comments about the race.

“My thought process is: there are a lot of folks who approach me that are undecided because they’re uninformed about where (the candidates) stand on issues that a governor has to address on a day in day out basis.

Business-friendly gubernatorial forum highlights taxes, government

“We can repeat words. And (in) most of those words I see broad agreement within the candidates,” he said. “But there are items that come across the governor’s desk and what the Legislature grapples with that aren’t being discussed that I think should be more in detail.”

“And so,” he continued, “I may offer some thoughts on that, as I said sooner rather than later.”

Holcomb mentioned economic development, a new road program with funding options, mental health, broadband and a sustainable Medicaid program as subjects the candidates should focus on: “I want to see not just the vision, very important to have a vision, more so to have the mission, the plans to actually realize that vision and that’s what I hope is shared because that will help whoever the next governor is carry out the planning of the day.”

The real issues

So, as the race kicks into high gear, it’s time for the candidates vying for the GOP nomination to get specific. And I have a few prompts myself.

Road funding – Legislators and the governor put together a long-term road funding program in 2017 that included a large gas tax increase. But those dollars are fluctuating and future infrastructure is at stake. Where do candidates stand on this topic, and how would they ensure Indiana’s crossroads remain an asset?

Medicaid – Supporting poor and disabled Hoosiers through this health care program is a must. But the price of that care is rising exponentially and could threaten the state budget. How would candidates address the sustainability of Medicaid? If cuts are needed, where would they apply them? Are they across-the-board cuts or limits on optional parts of Medicaid?

Taxes – Indiana lawmakers seem set on cutting some tax no matter what. It is income tax? Sales tax? Or how about the tax the most Hoosiers despise: property tax? I want specifics on what they would recommend for tax reform. And not on just what they’d cut, but how they’d replace that money or do without in the state budget.

Death penalty – Indiana has a death penalty on paper but hasn’t executed anyone since 2009, and several men on Death Row have languished there for decades. The holdup is that Indiana can’t get the necessary drugs for the lethal injection cocktail. So do candidates support eliminating the death penalty and saving money on those court battles? Or, would they move to other execution methods? And how does their position square with their anti-abortion rhetoric?

Education – After 20-plus years of Republican control over education, why aren’t we seeing improvement? Test scores, graduation rates and more have stagnated while the state transitioned to money following the student and funding private vouchers. What innovative ideas do these candidates have to make improvements? And should we keep funding essentially three systems: traditional public, charter and private schools?

Health care – Lawmakers have made attempts for several years to tackle this beast of a topic. But most of those efforts have focused on transparency and they simply aren’t working. Some states have capped insulin and other necessary medication prices. Others have limited profit margins. What would these candidates do to make a dent in this problem for Hoosiers?

When a candidate can answer these questions with depth and specifics they will earn my vote. And I don’t necessarily have to agree with them philosophically on every matter — they just have to be willing to speak beyond slogans and political dog whistles.

Jennifer McCormick is the only Democrat running for governor and is the presumptive nominee. Libertarian Donald Rainwater was already nominated in a party convention.


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Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.

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