GREENFIELD — State Senate District 28 candidates Michael Adkins and Mike Crider each strove to portray themselves as freshmen politicians who can work with both parties.
But they set themselves apart in their approaches to education and the economy in a debate held Monday night at Hancock County Public Library.
The seat is being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Beverly Gard. It’s the first time the position has been open since 1988, and a group of about 50 gathered to hear how the newcomers would approach the office.
While they agreed on several issues, Democrat Adkins gave specific ideas for legislation. Republican Crider says instead of giving specifics he is letting people know where he stands in general on issues.
But Adkins said that style of leadership is too passive.
“To me, that’s code for, ‘I’m just going to do whatever my party leadership is going to tell me to do,” Adkins said. “We’ve got to put people above partisan political games.”
Crider, however, pointed out that if Adkins wins the election he will be one of about 14 Democrats in the Senate, and getting his ideas through the legislative process would take incredible networking skills.
“One of the things I dislike about politics and politicians in general is they generally offer a lot of ideas and those ideas are difficult to back up,” Crider said. “I’m one of those guys that likes to under-promise and over-deliver.”
Adkins got into specifics on education, saying school reform in recent years has proven to be a burden to teachers who have little time for creativity. He’d like the state to eliminate all standardized testing except for tests that are required by federal law.
Crider, however, said changes to school letter grades, testing and teacher evaluations need time.
“There’s no doubt that folks don’t like change … I’m not saying that every change that has been made has been right on target or has been perfect,” Crider said. “We need to evaluate things for a couple of years, see what’s happening.”
Adkins suggests forgiving a portion of student loans for college graduates who stay in the state would help the economy by reversing the “brain drain.” Crider responded that he would like to see how that would work fiscally, and that removing money from one area for such a program would mean something else would suffer.
On the economy, Crider said red tape needs to be eliminated so small businesses can thrive. Adkins suggests small business loans, loans to local governments for infrastructure improvements, and more technical education.
The most recent legislative session had lawmakers weigh in on social issues like gay marriage, creationism in the classroom and Planned Parenthood. If such issues were to come up again, Crider says he would vote based on his Christian faith but he would also want to hear from constituents.
“I’m compassionate with folks,” he said. “I don’t believe my beliefs are superior to anyone else’s.”
Adkins said he stands for equal rights and while creationism is part of his faith, it’s not a science. He agreed that he does not want to inflict his beliefs on others.
Crider won a three-way race in the spring for the Republican nomination. He is a former director with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and as such said he’s done “everything short of being a legislator” because of his experience with budgeting, testifying at the Statehouse and working on legislation.
Adkins, chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Party, is retired. He was unopposed in the primary election.
A campaign issue from the primary election arose unexpectedly during opening statements. Adkins brought up push polling, saying Crider had made a statement on Facebook linking him (Crider) to the controversial negative telephone polling that critics said was designed to sway voters away from his Republican opponents.
Crider maintained after the debate that he didn’t have anything to do with the polling. He answered a question on the social networking site about the polling because he had also heard it was going on, but he denied funding it.
“I’m not the kind of guy who would do that,” he said.
Crider said after the debate that they both have a similar stand on issues. Adkins’ views are conservative, he said, and people want legislators that are going to work together.
“The reality is, you can’t talk to people without coming to the same conclusions that we come to,” Crider said.
Adkins said he opposed Indiana House Democrats walking out of the session in 2011. He said he will stand up against extreme leadership and will also let voters know what kind of legislator they are electing.
“It’s about being trustworthy, it’s about being straight with the voters by offering specific proposals,” Adkins said.