A farm-owner, a carpenter, a machinist and a veteran faced off in a Democratic debate last week at Purdue hosted by the Purdue College Democrats.
The candidates, who are running for Democratic Party representative in Indiana’s 4th congressional district, answered a variety of questions pertaining to hot-topic issues and those that affect the district. While many of their views were aligned with one another, it also served as a good opportunity for members of the community to share their concerns.
The debate started off with opening statements from each candidate:
Tobi Beck, a veteran who served in the 571st Military Police, talked about the need for cleaner energy and a universal health care plan and stressed the importance of getting out to vote.
Joe Mackey, a retired machinist, spoke of the current pediatric children’s cancer foundation he runs and his passion for health care fueled by the loss of two of his three children to cancer. He elaborated on his problem with health care, bringing up the issue of predatory insurance policies and lack of coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Veronikka Ziol, a carpenter and DIY-er who stated she’s running for “the little guy” — the people of the working class — and wants to give them a voice. She wants to end trickle-down economics and get the money out of the wealthy elite, instead giving it to the working class. She ended with her slogan: Clean, Fix, Build.
Darin Griesey, a Purdue alumnus and farm-owner, went into his backstory of running his own nonprofit in Los Angeles, which focuses on human rights issues and environmental conservation. He said he returned to Indiana as a lobbyist before taking a job in Indianapolis to help low-income neighborhoods. He reflected on his campaign and the tour he had taken around the district to learn about issues from the community.
After the statements, the candidates were asked a series of questions focusing on national and local issues that affect the community.
Support for a universal health care plan was echoed from all candidates. Everyone was in strong favor of covering pre-existing conditions and expanding the Affordable Care Act to do so. Beck and Griesey expressed the need for listening when it comes to building health care plans.
“That’s what we need in a representative, somebody that will talk to us, that will show up and then go represent us in Congress,” Beck said.
The last question, on abortion, showed all candidates as pro-choice.
“I’m still surprised we’re even talking about this,” Griesey said.
Job wages / tax reform
As with health care, the candidates were practically unanimous with their answers on job wages, tax reforms and workers unions.
All of the candidates were in favor of a new progressive tax system, with Ziol and Beck wanting to tax uninvested money by corporations as well.
The candidates remained progressive when discussing minimum wage.
Beck was first to answer by discussing the success Washington has had since it has increased to a $15-per-hour minimum wage. As was the trend for the debate, all of the candidates echoed their support for this, with Ziol mentioning a minimum wage as high as $22 per hour.
“If minimum wage kept up with inflation, we would already be at $15 an hour,” Ziol said. “If it had kept up with worker productivity, we would be over $22 an hour; I think $15 an hour is at least something that even Republicans should be able to agree on.”
Lastly, on workers unions, each candidate briefly showed support for allowing workers to come together and voice their opinions. Mackey shared that he was the only candidate endorsed by the unions.
“Democrats cannot just say they support unions,” Mackey said. “Democrats have grown far too comfortable sitting in boardrooms and not going to union halls. I go to the union halls, I speak to union membership. They’re supporting my campaign; I hope you will, as well.”
It was this topic where there was a variety of answers; while all were for gun control, each had different ideas for action.
Ziol wants to ban the popular AR-15, the gun used in the Parkland school shooting last month, and have stricter licensing when purchasing a gun. Griesey brought up raising the purchase age to 21, ending the gun-show loophole and requiring additional testing when obtaining a concealed-carry permit. Beck called for lifting the restriction on research imposed on the CDC. Mackey came out strong for gun control and went on to discuss his work and support for Moms Demand Action, a national group in support of common-sense gun laws.
“I think it’s time to end the drug war on marijuana,” Mackey said.
The conversation over medical marijuana legalization was rather short but united. Mackey was also in favor of reclassifying it from a Schedule I classification.
Beck focused on the opioid crisis, bringing up that states that have legalized medical marijuana have a smaller opioid problem.
Ziol was in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Griesey, being last to answer, reiterated the previous answers and brought up his history in fighting for decriminalization:
“Well out of all of us that are here, I’ve been in front of this issue for 25 years. I’ve drafted up legislation to decriminalize marijuana in Indiana 25 years ago and opened it up to the industrial hemp market as well.”
All of the candidates were for bringing high-speed internet to the rural areas and schools of Indiana.
Beck also supported improving the condition of roads and increasing the repair of potholes.
Ziol went further and talked about the degradation of bridges and the need to fix them.
Griesey emphasized the need for clean water on top of expressing support for high-speed internet.
The last question, on the idea of more toll roads in Indiana, was met with a resounding “No” from all of the candidates.