GREENFIELD — Three of the four candidates vying to be the area’s Republican congressional nominee visited Hancock County on Wednesday to discuss their campaigns and meet with voters in one of the first public forums of the 2018 election season.
State Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, U.S. Air Force reservist Stephen MacKenzie of Fortville along with entrepreneur and Muncie native Jonathan Lamb spoke with community members at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex on Wednesday to introduce themselves to local Republicans, answer questions and give those gathered a brief overview of their campaigns.
The three are running to represent Indiana’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which encompasses 19 counties, stretching from Delaware to Jefferson counties and including Hancock.
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Columbus resident Greg Pence — younger brother to Vice President Mike Pence, who held the seat for 12 years — also has announced his candidacy but was not in attendance due to a prior commitment.
Since Rep. Luke Messer announced he’d vacate the seat to run for Senate, residents from across the district have announced campaigns. More could toss their names in the race before the February filing deadline.
About 50 residents turned up for Wednesday’s forum, hosted by the Hancock County Young Republicans, to hear from the candidates.
Holly Gillham, chairwoman of the organization and moderator of the event, gave each candidate about 10 minutes to introduce himself and give a brief pitch for why he was the best man to go to Washington.
Each candidate discussed the issues he felt had the biggest impact on Americans today, with each touching on the country’s opioid crisis, national defense, immigration and the state of the economy.
Then they mingled with the attendees, answered questions and talked with voters one on one about the issues, getting into further detail and addressing specific concerns.
Rachel Massey of Greenfield, a member of the county’s young Republican organization, said she visited the forum with an open mind and planned to leave that way. It’s too early in the election season to decide who to cast a vote for, she said; but it was interesting to hear why each candidate decided to run and about the experience they hope to bring to Washington.
Janice Silvey, the chair of the Hancock County Republican Party, said voters can expect similar forums to be held as the 2018 primary draws nearer. The young republicans will likely help plan those events; but party faithfuls of all ages should plan to attend to learn more about those who could soon be their community leaders, she said.
Jane Klemme said she attended Wednesday’s forum for that same reason. Like Massey, she didn’t walk in already knowing who would get her vote in May; but she was pleased to have had the opportunity to hear from the candidates first hand.
“I’m looking forward to more of these,” she said as she was heading for the door at the end of the night. “I wish more people would show up.”