Federal, state and local candidates speak at town hall event

Several candidates for the upcoming midterm election were in Connersville on Thursday as part of a town hall series that has toured the state this year.

The event in Connersville had been postponed once due to illness, but went on as planned on the rescheduled date Thursday inside the Miller Building.

This town hall series is organized by the Indiana Democratic Party featuring Tom McDermott (Mayor of Hammond, Candidate for U.S. Senate), Cinde Wirth (Candidate for Indiana Sixth Congressional District), and Jessica McClellan (Candidate for State Tresurer) but also featured Libertarian Senate candidate James Sceniak.

The event was also not exclusive to state and federal level political candidates as local sheriff candidate Craig Pennington and Jackson Township Trustee Candidate Gwen Demkovich also spoke at the event.

Being a town hall style event, the topic of discussions for the event was dictated by questions from locals in attendance. Topics the candidates were asked about included. the opioid/substance abuse epidemic, gun control, inflation, abortion, school safety and gas prices.

Hammond and Sceniak will be running against each other as well as incumbent Todd Young (R) for Senate.

As for the substance abuse issue, Pennington said that he does not believe people in the area are not getting the support they need to find sobriety and face their addictions while in jail. He said the implementation of programs in the jail would be a mission of his if he was elected.

“I need to have more programs and meet these people where they are and to help them out and not just send them out when their time is over,” Pennington said. “That person is going to fail. That leads to recidivism which is a big problem.”

McDermott and Wirth each advocated for the legalization of Marijuana as a way to address addiction issues.

“This is a Hoosier problem, this is an American problem, McDermott said. “One thing that’s interesting to me is I have never had an overdose death on marijuana. I’ve never had it. I’ve had alcohol, cocaine I’ve had heroin, pills I’ve had a combination of all of that, but not one time have I had an overdose on cannabis, but yet that’s the one drug that we make illegal in Indiana.”

Wirth said she didn’t want to see marijuana used to swap addictions but gave an example of the health benefits she has seen from cannabis.

“I support cannabis also, not as a replacement of addiction for addiction, but I do see and I’ve done the studies and the medical applications of that are enormous,” Wirth said. “I’ve seen in my classroom. I had a student who had seizures every single day for five months. As soon as her parent chose to find her some cannabis her seizures stopped. So the implication is there, as far as the programs and things for local communities there are resources and ways that we can write healthcare policy to include mental healthcare and addiction treatment.”

Sceniak said that he thinks cannabis is a solution to opioid addiction, but there is more to it than that.

Libertarian James Sceniak, U.S. Senate candidate.

“We have to give economic opportunities, we have to allow innovation and freedom within our communities so that nonprofits can thrive,” Sceniak said. “So that things like the coffee shop can thrive so that the government stays out of the way so that those opportunities exist. … The criminal justice system has failed on this issue. The war on drugs has failed. We need a change in this area.”

The candidates were asked their opinions about subsidizing solar panels for homeowners. This is a timely question in the area as an ordinance regarding solar energy is moving to the city council of Connersville and county commissioners of Fayette County currently.

Wirth said that she loves incentivizing alternative energy, ad views it as a path forward for homeowners. She said on the other hand is not a fan of using large swaths of land that could be used for farming to create solar fields.

“We have plenty of rooftops we have plenty of parking lots, we have plenty of structures and other places where it could be more appropriate,” Wirth said. “I think that comes down to local zoning and I think those are local choices people would be making, but I support incentivizing that to move us forward and end our dependence on oil.”

McDermott pointed out he has had the city of Hammond participate in energy efficiency programs and had transitioned his city vehicles from gasoline powered vehicles to propane powered ones. Adding that these changes are necessary to combat climate change.

Sceniak also agreed with Wirth and McDermott that clean energy as something that needed to be looked at, mentioning nuclear power as another option that should be considered.

The News Examiner will continue with a second article in which candidates address issues of inflation and gun control in the Tuesday edition of the NE.

~ By Matt Sharp | Reporter | Published June 25, 2022 in The Connersville News Examiner