FORT WAYNE – Democrat John Gregg was on the attack from beginning to end in Thursdays gubernatorial debate, calling Republican Mike Pence extreme and the tea party candidate. Pence, meanwhile, rebutted many of the attacks but largely stuck to his agenda of cutting taxes and creating jobs.
Gregg, from his opening statement in the third and final debate in Fort Wayne, tried to tie Pence to Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who sparked a national controversy with remarks Tuesday night that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
At one point, Gregg referred to his opponent as the Pence-Mourdock ticket.
Pence issued a statement after Mourdocks remarks, saying: I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last nights Senate debate. I urge him to apologize.
But that led to criticism that Pence has been inconsistent – his campaign said he has always supported exceptions for abortions in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger. But on two different Indiana Right to Life surveys, he has checked boxes saying he supports exceptions only for the life of the mother or no exceptions at all.
After Thursdays debate, Pence said he has consistently opposed abortion except for in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Im pleased that Richard Mourdock clarified his comments and apologized, and I think its time to move on, Pence said, but he would not answer questions about what part of Mourdocks statement he disagreed with or what he needed to apologize for.
Mourdock said he was sorry that people misconstrued his words, but he stood by them.
I support his candidacy for Senate, Pence said. I look forward to standing with the whole Republican ticket.
Gregg also repeatedly attacked Pence on his opposition to the bailout for the auto industry.
Everybody at that GM plant in Fort Wayne needs to know that if we had followed your plan, that plant would be empty right now, Gregg said to Pence. It would be the worlds largest indoor flea market.
Pence countered that the question was not either-or. He favored making loan guarantees that would have let automakers borrow money from the private sector rather than writing a check with taxpayer money.
We could have saved those companies without putting taxpayers on the hook, Pence said. We could have done a backstop instead of a bailout.
The two battled over labels, with Gregg calling Pence a career politician until Pence pointed out that Gregg spent 16 years in the Indiana Statehouse – four more years than Pence spent in Congress.
Libertarian candidate Rupert Boneham was often relegated to the sidelines as Gregg and Pence sparred.
Enough with the bickering and blaming. Lets move forward with solutions, Boneham said.
After the debate, Boneham bristled at the fact that few reporters had questions for him.
Im sorry if the media doesnt want to acknowledge the fact people are tired of a two-party system, but we are, he said.
Much of the debate was done in the style of the Lincoln-Douglas debates before the Civil War, where one candidate made a statement and the others responded. That played into Greggs strategy of attacking Pence at every turn.
Youre always against everything, Gregg said. Youve not passed a bill in 12 years. You introduced 63 and not passed a one of them. Youve missed 86 percent of your committee votes.
Pence, meanwhile, stuck to his assertions that lower taxes and more jobs would make Indiana a leader in the Midwest.
Weve got to make job creation Job 1, Pence said. Help me make Indiana the state that works.
Viewers in and around Fort Wayne saw the debate without interruption, but because of problems with a satellite truck, viewers around the state experienced a 12-minute blackout.