INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young debated his Democratic and Libertarian challengers in a one-hour broadcast Sunday night.
Organized by the nonprofit Indiana Debate Commission, the event featured Young and two other U.S. Senate candidates, Democrat Thomas McDermott, the mayor of Hammond, and Libertarian James Sceniak.
The debate began with a discussion on inflation and what needs to be done to slow it down. 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.”
Several times throughout the evening, McDermott criticized the incumbent Senator’s record in Congress, including Young’s confirmation of former President Trump’s three nominees for Supreme Court, who later voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. 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).
A full debate breakdown can be found below.
Debate moderator Laura Merrifield Wilson, a political science associate professor at the University of Indianapolis, as well as a commission board member and previous gubernatorial debate moderator in 2016, opened the debate with brief introductions before asking questions.
Questions for the candidates came primarily from Hoosier voters, the IDC said, and were reviewed and selected by the commission.
- Todd Young: opened by saying that Hoosiers are hurting because of the “multi-trillion dollar tax and spend policies” of the Biden administration.
- James Sceniak: said he is focused on “real solutions for Hoosiers.”
- Thomas McDermott: talked about fighting for abortion access.
- Todd Young: said the country needs to “stop spending trillions of dollars we don’t have on things we don’t need.”
- James Sceniak: “We have to balance the budget so we can get inflation rates down.”
- Thomas McDermott: said Young is in part to blame for growing the nation’s debt during his time in office.
On prescription drug prices/the Inflation Reduction Act:
- Thomas McDermott: praised the legislation
- Todd Young: said McDermott is mischaracterizing the legislation and argues more transparency and competition are better solutions.
- James Sceniak: echoed those calls for more competition and said the U.S. needs to take a look at the patent system for drugs.
On the war in Ukraine:
- Todd Young: warned that if Russia is not stopped, China could feel empowered to invade Taiwan.
- James Sceniak: called for the U.S. and our allies to work together.
- Thomas McDermott: said we need to increase our alliance with NATO and continue to be involved in helping Ukrainian fighters.
On who won the 2020 presidential election:
- All candidates said that President Joe Biden won. Sceniak added calls for more equality in the election system.
- Todd Young: said abortion is not a states’ issue
- James Sceniak: said other solutions like increased contraception access are more effective at preventing abortions than a ban.
- Thomas McDermott: said he supports Roe v. Wade and the access and limitations under it.
On same-sex marriage:
- Todd Young: said it is a settled precedent.
- James Sceniak: said Hoosiers are concerned about what’s next with the Supreme Court.
- Thomas McDermott: said it’s a “disgrace” we’re concerned the Supreme Court could take this right away.
- Thomas McDermott: said Young has not fixed the immigration system.
- Todd Young: said that is wrong but that he agrees legal immigration reform is needed.
On marijuana legalization:
- Thomas McDermott: said supports medical and recreational legalization.
- Todd Young: said it is not his biggest priority right now and added that he would be open to considering safe banking legislation that would impact states where marijuana is legal.
- James Sceniak: said he supports federal reform.
On climate change:
- Todd Young: said the climate is indeed warming and that “taxing our way out of it” is not the right answer. He also said he supports some targeted research funding.
- James Sceniak: said we should encourage innovation.
- Thomas McDermott: said we should trust the experts and invest in renewable energy sources.
On social security:
- All candidates agreed that the system needs to be kept in place. Sceniak and Young said it needs reform to remain solvent.
- James Sceniak: said he is focused on protecting civil liberties, freedoms and economic stability.
- Thomas McDermott: said that Hoosier women trust him to codify Roe v. Wade and attacked Young for supporting Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.
- Todd Young: said he won’t miss an opportunity to work with the other side of the aisle on economic, innovation issues or “good government.”
The live-stream broadcast came courtesy of the commission.