Susan Brooks and Dee Thornton met on stage for a forum in a standing-room-only auditorium at Shamrock Springs Elementary School in Westfield Nov. 1, just five nights before Election Day.
The League of Women Voters of Hamilton County hosted the forum, the fifth in a series of debate-style forums involving candidates for the Indiana Senate, Indiana House of Representatives and Hamilton County Council, Commissioner, Sheriff and Coronoer races.
League of Women Voters of Indianapolis President Rhea Cain moderated the forum, and Brooks and Thornton were given equal time to respond to written questions from the audience.
Each candidate began by discussing the top three most pressing issues they will work to change if elected to congress. For Brooks, the most important issues she said are economic security, the opioid crisis and access to affordable healthcare. Thornton said she would like to focus on healthcare, infrastructure and education.
“No one should be one illness away from bankruptcy,” Thornton said.
She also said her opponent, Brooks, has voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a regulatory expansion of U.S. healthcare enacted 2010 by President Barack Obama.
“I have voted to repeal and replace the ACA,” Brooks said. “But from the beginning, I said I wanted to preserve three aspects of the bill: pre-existing coverage, keeping children on their parents’ plan until age 26 and no lifetime caps.”
When asked to address the issue of climate change, both candidates agreed that the country should invest in clean energy. However, they diverge on energy regulations. Thornton supports regulations to curb greenhouse gases, while Brooks does not.
On immigration, Thornton said she supports higher security at the border but does not want a border wall. Brooks said she would like to find a way forward for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.
Brooks and Thornton did not see eye to eye when asked about national debt and the income gap. Brooks said she supports President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut, signed in 2017, Thornton said it would only help the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. The bill cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and cut individual tax rates across the board.
“The rising debt will put our future generations into bankruptcy,” Thornton said. “We have a leadership who is very familiar with that term. We need people who are going to be fiscally responsible with our tax dollars.”
Near the end of the debate, the candidates each promised to work well with the opposite political party. Brooks, who has held the U.S. Congressional District 5 seat since 2012, has worked in tandem with politicians from both parties, co-signing bills and forming caucuses.
“You have to reach across the aisle,” Brooks said. “You have to make friends.”
Thornton said, if elected, she would collaborate to solve big issues.
“Let’s work across the aisle to give human rights to all Americans,” she said.