Four Candidates Answer Student Questions at Forum

WINONA LAKE – Of the 10 candidates seeking Indiana’s 3rd District Congressional seat, only three Republicans and one Democrat participated in Grace College Student Senate’s candidate forum Tuesday night.
During the 75-minute event, the four candidates got to state their positions on everything from guns, terror and war to Obamacare, abortion and LGBT civil rights.
Candidates participating included Republicans Pam Galloway, Indiana Senators Liz Brown and Jim Banks and Democrat Todd Nightenhelser. The 3rd District seat currently is held by Marlin Stutzman, who is not seeking re-election as he is running for retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats’ position.
Grace College Student Body President and event moderator Evan Kilgore said, “In an attempt to promote fairness, we reached out to all the candidates that we could contact and find information for, and these are the candidates that agreed to come this evening.”
The forum started with each candidate providing a two-minute opening statement, followed by questions both from the audience and submitted via Twitter, and ending with each candidate giving a two-minute closing statement. There was a total of 13 questions, and each candidate had one minute to respond to each question.
In her opening remarks, Brown, of Allen County, stated, “I think I have a unique background here because I have an education background; my husband is a physician, so I certainly understand the issues with the Obamacare and healthcare system and what a mess it is. But I think most importantly what we’re looking for, more than ever in Washington, is a true pro-life conservative Republican who is interested in fixing the mess there, not making a career of it, but moving there for work, coming home on the weekends and trying to get things straightened out there, not just listening to the big business people who seem to be running our country right now.”
Nightenhelser, of Huntington, said, “My campaign is based around knowing what’s best for all people, not just specific groups. Those people have many different opinions of how this world should be. Indiana is the type of state that doesn’t pick one side or another. The best solution isn’t necessarily the right or the left; the best solution is the solution that makes everybody better but not necessarily everybody happy.”
As part of his opening remarks, Banks, of Columbia City, said, “I currently serve as a state senator, and this opportunity to run for this office is another calling, another opportunity to be an advocate and a voice at our nation’s capitol for the conservative values that we share in Northeast Indiana.”
In her remarks, Galloway, of Warsaw, stated, “I’m running for this seat to serve the community. I’ve taken my message of ‘dismantle Obamacare, defend the Second Amendment, protect life, faith, family and country’ directly to the voters in all 12 counties in this district and the message has been well received.”
The first question from the audience asked the candidates what motivated them to run for the 3rd District.
Brown said she was motivated by “where our country is going right now,” while Nightenhelser said he was running for not only the future of his daughter and young brother, but also a future that includes respect for everyone. Banks said the threat to the American dream is the greatest of any generation and this election is about that. Galloway said serving the community, dismantling Obamacare, protecting the Second Amendment and pushing back against Planned Parenthood motivated her.
A third question asked, “With gun violence becoming a hot topic across dinner tables across America, what steps do you believe this nation should take in order to prevent future mass shootings?”
Galloway said she “somewhat” rejected the premise of the question. “It isn’t the guns that are violent. Guns don’t jump out of holsters and fire themselves.” Gunpowder and semi-automatic weapons have been around for centuries, she said, and it wasn’t until recently that there have been mass shootings. “So there’s some sort of cultural shift going on that’s leading to these mass shootings, some of which may be the lack of our country addressing mental health issues or maybe the breakdown of the family. But it isn’t the guns themselves that are leading to this violence.”
Brown said there’s never going to be one answer as to why “someone picks up a gun and starts shooting a classroom full of small children” and wasn’t sure “we’d ever be able to stop that.” She said more could be done with mental health issues, but that’s a small part of it.
“Let’s not forget the Obama administration is so politically correct that we are no longer able to identify those people who have started mass shootings because they’re terrorists,” she said.
Nightenhelser said gun violence issues are due to the breakdown of the family, but steps can be taken to address the issue like background checks.
“No one wants to regulate guns, no one is going to take away anyone’s guns. People say Obama will, but he’s done nothing to take away guns in six or seven years. He’s not going to. We’re America,” Nightenhelser said.
Banks agreed with Galloway the premise of the question was flawed. “Tragic events are committed by those who commit crimes when they commit the tragic event, yet gun control laws infringe upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners’ rights to protect themselves.” He said he’s always been a protector of the Second Amendment.
Another question from the audience asked, “Will you be supporting David Long to Senate even though he pushed for LGBT protections?” Long is the president pro tempore of the Indiana Senate, and his district is in the Fort Wayne area.
Banks responded, in part, that Long is in a contested race and he was sure the primary would be a healthy race. “On many issues I agree with Sen. Long, but I may disagree with him on some other issues. That’s what makes the legislative process such a great process.”
Galloway said she was unhappy with Long and his LGBT stand along with other issues. Brown said, “I was very disappointed that he was spearheading the LGBT civil rights legislation this year. I was one of the very few that was very vocally against it.”
Nightenhelser said he didn’t know much about Long, but, “In America, equal is equal. We can’t pick and choose who the winners are. I would support, not particularly him on his candidacy, but the right for someone to have equal rights as other people. What’s fair for one is fair for all. I don’t believe that’s corrupting anyone else’s views or beliefs or taking anyone’s rights from anyone else. Having someone have rights doesn’t take rights away from you.”
Other questions touched on the 14 percent approval rating of Congress, what the candidates have done to support taxpayers, Obamacare, military spending, college debt, standing up for one’s values, foreign policy and ISIS and the “bright spots” in America.
In closing statements, Nightenhelser said “we can do better,” Galloway reiterated her support for dismantling Obamacare, Brown asked voters to choose the candidate who represents their values and Banks told people to vote.