In forum, Hill says he’s not currently supporting US 30 proposal or OrthoWorx plan

Eric Doden, far right, responds to a questions during Monday’s gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce at the Performing Arts Center at Warsaw Community High School. From left is Chamber CEO Rob Parker, who served as moderator, an candidates former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Warsaw area residents got a taste of gubernatorial politics Monday night with a forum held at the Performing Arts Center featuring three of the six Republican candidates.

The three candidates spent 90 minutes talking about their past backgrounds and their future plans for Indiana.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former state attorney general Curtis Hill and Eric Doden answered 14 questions with two minute answers in an event organized by the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce.

But it was Hill who possibly stood out to anyone focused on Warsaw-centric issues.

Crouch, without prompting, punctuated her support for reconstruction of US 30 across much of northern Indiana, saying it would be a top priority.

“This corridor here is the most manufacturing intensive corridor in the United States of America, and it not only drives the economy of northeast Indiana, but it drives the economy of Indiana,” Crouch said.

The topic came up later in a question and Doden said it would also be a priority.

“When you look at this part of the state, and what it would do to connect Chicago all the way to Ohio, it would absolutely be a dramatic change,” Doden said.

Hill, a longtime resident of Elkhart County, said he was unsure if the project is merited.

“I’m not going to come in here and say that’s a priority for me. It’s not been a priority. It’s something we’ll review and determine,” Hill said.

Hill also didn’t show much love for the $30 million plan to boost the orthopedic industry through quality of life projects that would benefit many parts of the county.

The Orthoworx proposal – which includes numerous specific proposals to be unveiled in coming weeks – will be reviewed by the state budget committee and is viewed as unique in that it directs a large sum of money to benefit a specific segment of the local economy.

“I don’t know as I’m standing here whether that’s an appropriate expenditure or not,” Hill said.

“Keep in mind, one of my priorities is reducing government, so every time we start talking about ‘what about this and what about that,’ we get away from that idea of shrinking government to its basic unit.”

Doden and Crouch both spoke in support of the initiative.

Doden pointed out that he was the architect of the state’s Regional Cities program ten years ago and that it led to projects across much of the state.

“It began to stimulate ideas and concepts all over the state of Indiana – that’s why I’m a big fan of what’s happening here with the orthopedic investment,” Doden said.

When asked about economic development, Doden said he wants to take some profits from non-profit health organizations and shift it to boosting rural communities across the state.

“We’re going to have a big meeting with about six CEOs of non-profit hospitals that have $35 billion of cash, profits and reserves on Wall Street.

“We’re calling for 30 percent of that $35 billion to be put into an Indiana Main Street fund which allows us the opportunity to improve these communities.”

Meanwhile, Crouch touted her plan to phase out the state income tax.

“We’re going to ax the tax. Hoosiers are struggling. We can put thousands of dollars into their pockets every year,” Crouch said.

Hill put an emphasis on freedom and an opponent of government bureaucracy, saying the elimination of regulations could spur economic development.

He reminded the audience that he blocked the efforts of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to add a third designation — an X — for gender.

He also said he will eliminate the state’s efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

“And it’s not because I don’t believe in diversity. I do believe in diversity, but not at the cost of excellence,” Hill said.

Hill criticized the Holcomb-Crouch administration for implementing a governemtn shutdown and mask mandate during the pandemic.

Crouch countered by saying neither of those would happen again if elected.

The event was organized by the Kosciusko Chamber Chamber of Commerce, which originally invited the top four Republican candidates based on a straw poll. US Sen. Mike Braun declined to participate and Brad Chambers originally agreed to participate, but then backed out.

Jamie Ritenour is also running in the Republican primary for governor. The chamber reached out to her, but did not hear back.

Jennifer McCormick is running in the Democratic primary and Donald Rainwater is once again expected to be the Libertarian Party’s choice for the general election.

Chamber CEO Rob Parker said they were not invited because they don’t have opponents in the primary.

Primary Electrion Day is May 7.

The entire 90-minute forum can be seen on the Chamber’s Facebook page.