GREENFIELD – With the primary election now over, campaigns are ramping up for the general contest this fall.
Democratic and Libertarian candidates for state and federal offices gathered at Greenfield-Central High School Tuesday night to discuss the economy, education, election security and other issues on voters’ minds. The event was part of statewide town hall series organized by the Indiana Democratic Party.
Tuesday’s lineup included U.S. Senate candidate Libertarian James Sceniak, Indiana Sixth Congressional District candidate Democrat Cinde Wirth, Indiana Secretary of State candidates Libertarian Jeffrey Maurer and Democrat Destiny Scott Wells, Indiana House District 54 candidate Democrat Nan Polk and Indiana House District 88 candidate Democrat Donna Griffin.
The candidates running for Congress were asked how they’d help reduce inflation if elected.
Sceniak, a behavior therapist who works with children with autism, faces Democrat Thomas McDermott Jr. and Republican incumbent Todd Young for a seat representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate. He attributed the current high inflation to wasteful spending by the federal government.
“If we want to see change and we want to bring value back to our money, we absolutely need to vote differently, and we need to vote for a Libertarian solution to inflation, and that’s cutting deficit spending, and I promise that I will not vote for anything that requires deficit spending,” Sceniak said.
Cinde Wirth, a teacher, scientist and Ph.D. student in educational studies at Ball State University, is running against incumbent Republican Greg Pence for Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District. She said “out-of-control corporations” are having a significant effect on inflation, prompting a deeper look at the power they hold.
“I think that’s maybe the best place to start, is looking at those corporations and what role that they’re playing in making sure that their shareholders are addressed — but not at the expense of everyday people,” Wirth said.
The Indiana Secretary of State candidates were asked what they’d do to ensure votes are counted.
Maurer’s background includes entrepreneurship, sustainability, tech startups and nonprofits. He said voters should receive printed receipts proving they cast a ballot, and that there should be a way to confirm it was counted in a manner that doesn’t compromise voters’ privacy, for which he added technology solutions exist.
“We should have some way that each of us is empowered to audit our own vote and look it up and know that it was counted,” Maurer said.
Wells is a lawyer, Army National Guard combat veteran and Army Reserve lieutenant colonel. She noted that while Hancock County does not use electronic voting machines, half of Indiana’s counties do, and that the machines are susceptible to calibration issues.
“I would say we need to go to paper ballots to make sure that votes are being counted,” Wells said.
Maurer and Wells face Republican incumbent Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan.
The candidates running for Indiana House of Representatives were asked what can be done to keep teachers safe to teach facts and encourage discussion in classes about controversial subjects.
Nan Polk, a New Castle resident, retired teacher of 32 years and nine-year school board member, faces Republican Cory Criswell for Indiana House District 54, which includes Blue River Township in Hancock County’s southeastern corner. She said misinformation with intentions to incite anger is compromising teacher safety as they set out to teach facts.
“The truth is that most of the stuff that is put out there that is so controversial, so emotional, doesn’t even exist,” Polk said.
Donna Griffin, a Buck Creek Township resident, is an adjunct professor at Butler University who also substitute-teaches at Hancock County schools and has worked as a student media teacher and journalist, including for the Daily Reporter. She’s running against incumbent Republican Chris Jeter for Indiana House District 88, which includes midwest and northwestern Hancock County. She said the state legislature’s Republican supermajority lives in an “alternate reality” when it comes to determining how to regulate education.
“I just think it’s time to call them out and to get some people who know what it’s like … in a classroom and to deal with the real issues, and to come up with a fundamental change in the way we do it,” Griffin said.
Nate Luke, a Greenfield resident running as a Libertarian for Hancock County Council District 3, did not participate in the town hall discussion but addressed the audience at the end of the event. He expressed frustration over partisanship and finger-pointing and promised to lead with empathy.
“If you are looking at a person and judging that person or forming any sort of assumptions about that person based on a big letter next to their name on the ballot, you’re doing yourself a disservice and you’re doing that person a disservice,” said Luke, who faces Republican incumbent Jim Shelby in the general election. “We are not our parties.”
Drew Anderson, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party, said Greenfield was the second stop of a 15-city town hall series across the state after starting last week in Fort Wayne.
“At the end of the day, we all know one thing – this election year is literally going to determine the direction of where our country’s going to go,” Anderson said.
The Indiana Republican Party declined an invitation to participate in the town hall series. In a message to Indiana Democratic Party chairman Mike Schmuhl, state GOP chairman Kyle Hupfer called the forum a “political stunt.” The message also refers to tweets from Anderson critical of Republicans, some of which include profanity, as well as a tweet from the state Democratic Party critical of Republicans, which Hupfer wrote belie the state Democratic Party’s “call for ‘greater decency and respect’ and ‘cordial’ conduct.”