Confessions of a Hoosier Democrat

Blogging Indiana Politics and the 2008 Presidential Race.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Candidate forum with David Orentlicher, Russell Brown and John Barnes

On Friday, October 20, I was invited to a candidates forum put on by Bil Browning of Bilerico.com. Bil invited:

Russell Brown (State Senate Candidate – District 31)
Rep David Orentlicher (State Representative – 86th District)
Susan Fuldauer (State House candidate – 88th District)
John Barnes (State House candidate – 89th District)
Mike Kole (Libertarian Candidate - Secretary of State).

Unfortunately Susan and Mike had to cancel at the last minute, but hopefully we’ll get something from them soon.

Bloggers other than myself who attended were:

Bil Browning and Don Sherwood - Bilerico.com
Jennifer Wagner - Taking Down Words
Gary Welsh - Advance Indiana
Steph Mineart - A Commonplace Book
Kelly Jordan - Resisting Inertia
Ben Berg - stAllio's Way
Anonymous - ManfredEye

Each blogger got to ask a question and the three candidates could answer however they wanted. No rules were set… just talking amongst friends…

Stem Cells

First question was from Jennifer Wager from Taking Down Words. She asked the three candidates about stem cell research and how that issue affects the campaigns. Orentlicher talked about how it was more than just an issue about research, but rather it reflected on the state as a whole. If we ban stem cell research it can give the impression that Indiana is not a state that is on the cutting edge of research, thus lowering it’s stock value for biotech companies looking to move here.

Brown added that we have some of the best research universities in the country and we need to create an environment which will ensure that the talent those universities produce stay in Indiana.

Working on the theme of creating a good environment, Barnes said that we need to promote tolerance and diversity to promote Indiana as a forward-thinking state for investors.

Orentlicher used Ft Collins, Colorado as a model for how a community invested in infrastructure, education, parks, etc. to make itself more attractive to companies looking to move here.

Transportation

Ben Berg of StAllio’s Way asked the next question about transportation in general. Orentlicher was the first to respond talking about how we need more public transportation to unite areas.

Barnes talked about how Major Moves was not necessarily bad, but the way it was ramrodded through was not the way to do business. His opponent Larry Buell was part of the problem, not explaining or getting input on what he’s doing… just doing it.

Brown talked about how people are saying how great Major Moves was and he noted an example of a community that just received $100,000+ for road work. While it was great they got the money, in reality that small of an amount would barely pay for anything roadwise.

Orentlicher followed up Barnes’ point about Major Moves being ramrodded on us by pointing out that it sets a dangerous precedent for the gov’t to privatize anything it wants without public input.

Postive vs Negative Campaigning


Kelly from Resisting Inertia asked about positive vs negative campaigning, especially in light of the battle between Orenticher and his opponent. Orentliched acknowledged that it is frustrating because it takes away from the conversation about the topics, the campaigning itself becomes the topic. What the negative ads are about are important issues.

Brown talked about how it was hard to get the attention of the media. The only thing that really gets any press is when you do something controversial.

Barnes said that it’s difficult to attack his opponent because no one knows what his views are… add on top of that the fact that there’s no press coverage… makes this rather difficult.

Privatization of Government

The blogger from Manfred’s Eye asked about privatizing state government. Brown, a former O’Bannon staffer, said that people get into state government not for the money but rather to pay the bills and do good, no one gets rich being a state employee. Being efficient is good, but it should be the default.

Orentlicher said that privatization can be good, but it has to make sense to do so.

Barnes commented that it can be dangerous to take a corporate view, that looking at it that way doesn’t serve the people, but rather the bottom line. Government is not a business and should not be run that way.

Conflicts of interest

I asked the next question about how to keep conflicts of interest out of government. All too often you hear of a legislator blocking one bill or promoting another bill that affects his/her livelihood. Honestly I asked the question but forgot to take notes on it because I was listening to the answer. All three candidates talked about how important it was to minimize the conflict of interest, but sometimes it’s hard to totally remove yourself, especially considering that everyone is only a part-time legistlator.

Orentlicher mentioned that since he was a lawyer, doctor and professor at IU, if he recused himself from every vote that he might benefit on, he’d have to not vote on anything involving lawyers, medicine or universities…

Legistlative Agenda

Steph Mineart from Commonplacebook asked each candidate what part of his legistlative agenda would be...

Brown
1> Full day kindergarten
2> Keeping college grads in Indiana - Stop the brain drain
3> Affordable Health Insurance

Orentlicher
1> Full day kindergarten and preschool
2> Property tax reform
3> Insurance reform

Barnes
1> Health care for the poor
2> Education funding
3> Property tax reform

Gay Marriage Ban Constitutional Amendment

One of the GOP's main issues next legistlative session is promised to be trying to amend the Indiana Constitution to ban gay marriage. Don from Bilerico asked each candidate where they stood on it.

Orentlicher said he was strongly against the proposal, that we shouldn't write discrimination into the constitution.

Brown said the proposal discriminatory and unnecessary, Indiana law already bans gay marriage. Additionally the language of the proposed amendment is vague at best and for that reason alone it should be rejected. Even the author of the amendment couldn't say exactly what it meant.

Barnes agreed that it was redundant. Additionally he pointed that once it's passed it's pretty much set in stone, no amendment to the Indiana constitution has ever been repealed. Additionally it makes our state look backward.

Extending sexual orientation to Civil Rights

Bil from Bilerico asked each candidate if he'd support adding sexual orientation to discrimination laws, protecting gays from being discriminated against like how they added Vietnam veteran status.

Barnes said yes he would support. It's something that people don't like to talk about it, but we need to talk about it.

Orentlicher said that he would support it, but that we needed to be very careful when trying to pass legistlation like that. We need to be careful that state laws don't override local ordinances that may be more protective.

Brown's answer was simple: Yes.

Voter ID


Gary from Advance Indiana asked about the new voter ID law. The new law requires you to show a gov't issued picture ID to vote.

Brown commented that the law was the most restrictive voter ID law in the country. requiring a picture ID is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's too restrictive. Many other election reforms are needed, such as satellite voting, moving poll closing to a later hour and allowing voter registration closer to election day.

Orentlicher said that the bill was not designed to protect the integrity of voting. There are plenty of other places that has much much more fraud that they are unwilling to touch, like absentee balloting.

Barnes said that it if wasn't broken, why are they trying to fix it? There's been no evidence of voter fraud by people trying to impersonate someone to vote. If they were really concerned about cutting down on fraud they'd have focused on absentee ballots.

Orentlicher added that there may have been very isolated cases of it, but it's never been reported. If there was systemic fraud, it would have been evident in the voting trends.

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