INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s U.S. Senate candidates faced off Sunday for their only debate, discussing a wide range of issues involving domestic and foreign policy.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana) is facing Democratic challenger Tom McDermott, the mayor of Hammond, and Libertarian James Sceniak in the November election.
Though they found some areas of agreement on topics like Russia’s war on Ukraine, they sparred over many other issues.
Here’s what the candidates said about some of the topics discussed:
Sen. Young was critical of the Biden administration and Democrats and said he believes the solution comes down to reducing government spending.
“The plan is quite simple: We need to stop spending trillions of dollars we don’t have on things we don’t need,” Young said.
But McDermott and Sceniak blamed Young for contributing to the nation’s inflation.
“Like the incumbent said, spending is an issue,” Sceniak said. “But unlike the incumbent, I don’t just disagree with spending when it’s the other side.”
“He talks about the CHIPS Act, which is another spending bill which he worked side-by-side with Joe Biden to help pass,” McDermott said. “It’s inflationary. It adds to our nation’s debt.”
When asked what federal legislation on abortion he would support, McDermott said he is in favor of the access and limitations under Roe.
“Roe versus Wade worked for my entire life,” McDermott said. “For five decades it was the precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court that women have the right to privacy, including the right to have an abortion.”
Sceniak argued measures like increased contraception access are more effective at preventing abortions than any government ban.
Young said he believes it should be left to the states but didn’t take a position on what kind of legislation he would like to see states pass.
“The people of Indiana and 49 other states are in the process, consistent with our values and ideas, of trying to get this right,” Young said.
“I do accept exceptions, and I’ll accept whatever the people of Indiana decide,” Young added.
When taking questions from reporters after the debate, Sen. Young clarified that he is not in favor of any federal restrictions on abortion, including the 15-week ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).
War in Ukraine
Indiana’s Senate candidates are all pushing for the U.S. to be involved in some form in helping Ukrainians fight the Russian invasion.
Young called it a “national security issue.”
“If we don’t arrest them there, then you’re going to see Xi Jinping move on Taiwan and perhaps some other areas that will impact our lines of trade,” Young explained.
“We need to do everything we can as Americans to supply arms to Ukraine, to let them to continue the fight and regain the territory that they’re gaining back,” McDermott said.
McDermott accused Young of inaction on immigration.
“Our immigration system is broken, and we gave Sen. Young 12 years to fix this problem,” McDermott said.
Young pushed back and disputed that claim as he blamed the Biden administration for immigration-related challenges.
“He eliminated Title 42, the public health protections,” Young said of President Biden. “He stopped funding a border wall. Yes, we do indeed need some actual fencing to help secure the border.”
Sceniak argued both parties haven’t done enough on the issue.
“We have to look at a process that still vets them so that we are secure but allows for more fluid immigrants to be able to come to America,” Sceniak said.
McDermott said he doesn’t support illegal immigration but wants to help undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
“I do also support DACA recipients who are already in our country through no fault of their own, for decades in some cases,” McDermott said.
Sen. Young said he’s also open to new ways to support DACA recipients.
“An important and meritorious proposal came to the floor during the Trump administration which would have given a path to legal status for DACA recipients,” Young said. “The Democrats opposed that.”
During a discussion on marijuana, Sen. Young said he’s open to working with states to “remove federal barriers” from passing new laws. That includes potential safe banking legislation, he said, which would impact businesses in states that have legalized cannabis.
“The monies earned through those businesses could put their marijuana-earned monies into local banks,” Young said. “We should empower that through our federally-protected financial institutions.”
McDermott said he supports federal marijuana legalization for medical and recreational use.
“If you go to Illinois or Michigan right now and you go into the parking lot of a dispensary, you’re going to see 75% of the plates in the parking lot are Hoosier license plates,” McDermott said. “People going to buy gummy bears so they can sleep better at night.”
So far, 37 states have legalized cannabis for medicinal or recreational use. Indiana is not one of them.