Ind. gov candidates meet in debate

September 16, 2008 8:47:47 PM PDT
The three major candidates in the race for governor in Indiana squared off in the first of three scheduled debates Tuesday night. They included incumbent Republican Mitch Daniels, Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson and Libertarian candidate Andy Horning.

The Republican governor of Indiana actually said after the debate he nearly bled to death from biting his tongue so hard as he listened to one misleading charge after another from his Democratic opponent, but she was steadfast on her accusations.

"As George Bush's budget director, Governor Daniels is the architect of the largest deficit in the history of the world," Thompson said.

Thompson claims gasoline prices keep going up in Indiana and the economy has gotten worse during the Daniels administration.

"We have lost 65,000 jobs just last summer. Maybe if Governor Daniels wasn't spending so much time flying around in the state's airplane, flying back from his vacation home in West Virginia, he would have a better sense of how difficult it is for many Hoosier families," said Thompson.

"So many falsehoods, so little time," Daniels said. He added that the state has gone from carrying a deficit to a great credit rating under his leadership. Thompson called his assertion fuzzy math.

Thompson also attacked his controversial decision to privatize Indiana's tollway for nearly $4 billion over 75 years.

"It is a short-term gain for long-term pain. In other words, get the money up front but in the long term, it is going cost us," Thompson said.

"We do this to protect taxpayers. Politicians differ about your life, it doesn't really matter that much. We should be more self-directed," Horning said.

"Jill Long Thompson knows she's behind. She doesn't have a lot of money and is taking advantage of what the debates provide and going after him pretty hard," said Matthew Tulley, Indianapolis Star columnist.

Indiana is considered a reliable Republican red state. And Daniels has been getting free air time lately battling national disasters, such as tornadoes and floods.

But Hoosiers have elected Democrats over the years, and this is considered a big Democratic year nationally. So there could be an upset, and the debates could be pivotal, beginning with the first one Tuesday in Merrillville.

Daniels, a former drug company executive and Bush administration budget director, has ruffled feathers over the past four years as he has creatively tried to boost the Indiana economy and hold down taxes by, among other things, leasing the state tollway systems. But gasoline prices are among the highest in the country.

The state did add a penny to the sales tax at the pump as part of a package. And Daniels has billed taxpayers for $100,000 in charges, including political trims, all of which is providing ammunition to his opponent, who has been a business executive.

Thompson is hoping to capitalize on the anti-Bush sentiment and the troubled economy that is likely to help Democrats across the country. She has been criticized for promising more jobs, better health care and lower taxes without providing details on how to do it. The latest poll gave Daniels a 14-point lead, 52-38, up from a narrow 54-45 lead in June, in large part because he was filling the airwaves with ads while Thompson had to refill her campaign war chest after a tough and costly primary race while Daniels was running unopposed.

Horning is not considered a factor in the governor's race, but he is running, and he will be participating in the debate at the Star Plaza Theater.