IN Focus: Candidates for Lt. Governor square off in first debate

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INDIANAPOLIS – The two women running to become Indiana’s next lieutenant governor faced off at the State Fair Tuesday, in their first face-to-face debate in what’s been an anything but typical governor’s race.

Republican Suzanne Crouch, state auditor and former state lawmaker, and Democrat Christina Hale, a state representative and former Kiwanis International executive, were asked about the major issues facing the state’s agriculture industry.

The debate was hosted by AgrIInstitute and sponsored by Ice Miller, the Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Corn Growers Association and Indiana Soybean Alliance.

The afternoon, though, for the candidates was just as much about introducing themselves to Hoosiers statewide.

“Every dollar that government spends should be done so with serious respect and consideration,” Crouch said who was just named to the ticket last week in wake of Gov. Pence’s decision to accept Republican nomination for vice president.

Crouch is running alongside Eric Holcomb who replaced Pence on the ballot.

Hale is John Gregg’s running-mate.

“It is an opportunity to really challenge the public conversation about what matters to people,” Hale said.

During the debate, Hale routinely mentioned Gregg’s name at the top of the ticket while Crouch stayed away from mentioning Holcomb.

And while the talk at the State Fair centered on agriculture, it was clear the talk on the campaign trail continues to be Indiana’s infrastructure and the failure of the General Assembly to pass a long-term funding solution last session.

“It’s outrageous that a third of our bridges in Indiana are structurally deficient around the state,” Hale said. “Not every community has the same issue so we want to be flexible so we have ready dollars there so we can customize to whatever the need has to be.”

Crouch quickly turned her opening statements into a conversation on Indiana’s roads.

“Let me be clear, we must not rest until we have a long-term solution to our infrastructure funding,” Crouch said. “It has to involve a collaborative effort that not just benefits urban roads and bridges but also benefits rural roads and bridges.”

Both candidates played it relatively safe during the debate, neither specially endorsing nor refusing to support any controversial ideas like raising the state’s gas tax to pay for a long-term funding plan.

Instead, it was a moment to connect with a voting sector highly engaged and impacted by the state’s agriculture policies and an afternoon of introductions.

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