Candidates trade barbs at town hall

The town hall event hosted by the Indiana Democratic Party featuring the Indiana Libertarian Party also pressed candidates for their opinion on second amendment rights, and rising gas prices and inflation

First, the issue of the pain each citizen is feeling at the pump amidst record high gasoline prices.

Candidate for State Treasurer Jessica McClellan said the State Treasurer’s office has options as to what they can do to help Hoosiers.

“Hoosiers have an opportunity to use from to different sources, surplus or ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money,” McClellan said. “We have the opportunity to have lower prices at the pump, and I am flabbergasted that our legislator has not used either one of those sources to supplement the gas tax and to take prices back down for Hoosiers. It is a simple solution. It is a short-term solution. It’s not going to fix inflation, but it’s going to fix our pocketbooks,”

Tom McDermott (Mayor of Hammond, Candidate for U.S. Senate) said he would like to see the gas tax suspended for the rest of the year.

“The super majority has been approached by us asking them to suspend the gas tax across the Hoosier State for the rest of the year,” McDermott said. “Our highway trust fund is at an all time high. With the federal money that is coming into Indiana right now. What usually funds that trust fund is the tax from gas. With the ARP and the infrastructure money that is flowing through Indiana right now, we don’t need to worry about that fund for the rest of the year, so why not give Hoosiers a break? One dollar a gallon is a lot of money. You can save $15 a fill up you do.”

Libertarian Senate candidate James Sceniak said this was a great topic as it affects all Hoosiers, and said that his competitors for senate did not have a solution to the issue.

Libertarian James Sceniak, U.S. Senate candidate.

“What’s interesting is both Todd Young (R, incumbent) and the democrats don’t have solutions for this issue. (…) It’s a lot of finger pointing, what we need is solutions. Did you know that not only are we taxing our gas, but that sales tax is on top of our gas tax, so you’re literally getting taxed on top of your tax. Does that make any sense to anybody in this room? No. We need to suspend this Ludacris taxation it hurts Hoosiers, it hurts their wallet. It hurts farmers, it hurts truckers and it hurts every single occupation and most importantly it hurts your wallet. So if democrats are serious about tax reduction I’m willing to work across the isle on that. But it has to be serious and we have to get it done.”

The next question focused on passing gun reform, while also not infringing on second amendment rights.

Cinde Wirth (Candidate for Indiana Sixth Congressional District) compared her time as a child learning how to handle a gun, and being taught how to do so safely to children today who don’t get the same training.

“The second amendment is about, yes a well regulated militia, but there’s that regulation piece in there, there’s that safety piece in there,” Wirth said. (…) In these regulations, these kids know it will keep them safer, it’s not going to keep them completely safe, or any of us, but it will make it more difficult for people to just go out and buy something quickly and do some real damage. I think that’s the unfortunate part we all miss is there is an entire generation of school kids who are terrorized from doing these drills because we don’t have gun safety and regulatory pieces in place.”

Fayette County Sheriff candidate Craig Pennington said he would like to see punishments be harsher for reckless use of a weapon, such as a weapon left unattended by it’s owner or being carelessly stored leading to a crime.

Sceniak said that he is a strong supporter of the second amendment, and that violence has gone down the last 30 years.

“Innovation is an important part of mental health,” Sceniak said. “If Hoosiers and Americans don’t see opportunities they turn to crime. We have to give them opportunities and innovation. We have to allow them easy access to mental health facilities and we have to give them the support that they need including the rights of everybody, medical rights. Those are your rights. So, yes I’m a staunch supporter of the second amendment. I believe there’s a reason why the government wanted them to have the power.”

McDermott said that passing laws regarding the second amendment shouldn’t be an issue, giving laws passed regarding the first amendment as an example.

“We pass laws all the time that deal with the first amendment,” McDermott said. For instance you can’t threaten a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. That’s in the news right now. You can’t say ‘I want to peaceably assemble with my weapons outside of Justice Kavanaugh’s house.’ It’s against the law and it’s a first amendment issue. We can regulate the second amendment.”

McDermott said he has a lifetime permit to carry a weapon, saying he is a believer in the second amendment, but that it should not be used to “give us the right to slaughter fellow Americans.”

“Things were a lot different then,” McDermott said. “Muskets were loaded one at a time. Right?” We didn’t have an army. We were surrounded by enemies. There was a reason we passed the second amendment at the time.”

Sceniak and McDermott will be opponents as well as Young come November. Sceniak had a rebuttal to McDermott’s comments about the first amendment regarding a flag that McDermott had asked to be taken down in his city of Hammond. Sceniak said McDermott had asked for a flag with profanity to be taken down despite McDermott using profane language himself on his campaign website.

McDermott was given the chance to respond and said that it he asked the flag to be taken down because it was across from a park where there could be kids at.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to be flying a flag with the f word across the street from the park, and I’m the mayor of the city. Mayors are paid to make tough decisions,” McDermott said.

McDermott said that he believes anyone in his position would have done the same thing.

Pennington was asked about school violence across the country and if the schools and local law enforcement were prepared.

“I think we need training, a lot more training, and the SROs need to be trained more and better,” Pennington said. “I also have contact with Wayne County who offers a lot of training to SROs and can either go by their model or they have offered to come down and train with us. There are multiple ways we can help with that.”

~ By Matt Sharp | Reporter | Published June 28, 2022 in The Connersville News Examiner