Vanderburgh Co. political candidates state positions at forum

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Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 12:05 AM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - On Thursday, the United Neighborhoods of Evansville hosted a candidates forum for local political candidates in contested races. Each candidate was given two minutes to speak, then addressed questions from the crowd.

The first race represented was the race for the 76th District of Indiana’s House of Representatives.

Incumbent Republican Wendy McNamara discussed her record in office, while her opponent Democrat Katherine Rybak discussed wanting to soften the blow against debtors and fight against recently passed legislation.

“We have $50 million in ready grants that came to our community because of legislature I supported,” McNamara said. “We have road projects going left and right because of legislation that I support.”

“I am the only candidate in this race that will defend the right to reproductive rights and the ability of doctors to take care of their patients and the right to women to have access to medical care,” Rybak said.

For the State House’s 77th District, Democratic incumbent Ryan Hatfield discussed his support for labor in southwest Indiana.

On the libertarian ticket, Jada Burton said she wants to bring some new perspective to the office.

“I’ve been proud to work with the chairman of labor to ensure that our pensions are strong so that when you retire... your pensions are there for you so that you have a good retirement,” Hatfield said.

“I’m younger, I’m Black, and I think that representation is very important to see and to have other young Black people grow into see that they can do this too,” Burton said. “It is my goal to bring unity to the community.”

Facing off for Vanderburgh County Commissioner were Republican Justin Elpers and Democrat Ryan Stratman.

Elpers focused on his record voting in favor of things like the Deaconess Aquatic Center while he was a county councilor, and Stratman emphasized wanting to avoid politics and focus on infrastructure.

However, as questioning began, the discussion heavily centered on Elpers’s history of opposition to any resolutions favoring the LGBTQ community.

“I was vocal against the library using our tax dollars for drag queen story hour,” Elpers said. “I was outspoken against that. Our young children were targeted, and I spoke out, and our public tax dollars were used for that.”

“We’ve got a lot of problems here in Vanderburgh County,” Stratman said. “40% food desert, 20% of children are food insecure, among other things. My focus would not be on that, it would be on working for those goals and letting people live their lives the way they want to be treated.”

Lastly, running for Vanderburgh County Prosecutor, Republican Diana Moers and Democrat Jon Schaeffer discussed some of their biggest points of emphasis should they be elected.

“My platform for my campaign is integrity and professionalism, collaboration with law enforcement,” Moers said. “I was happy to receive the FOP endorsement today, so that’s a great honor.”

“I believe mental health and addiction are directly related to crime,” Schaeffer said. “If we can address those two issues, we can alleviate a lot of low-level crime in our community.”

In the race for Vanderburgh County Assessor, Democrat Matthew Smith cited his experience working in logistics in the Army as a comparable skillset.

Incumbent Republican Bill Fluty cited his own assessor experience.

Many other candidates were in attendance without their opponents present.

All were Democrats, including Jason Salstrom, who’s running for House District 78 on a platform of localizing government.

Karen Reising, who’s running for County Council District 1, said she wants to restore faith in government and fight mental health issues and substance abuse.

Sheriff candidate Noah Robinson focused on wanting to take a community-based approach to law enforcement.

Last of the evening was Dustin Stephens who is running for German Township Trustee, he says in the hopes of helping the community.

U.S. Congress candidate Ray McCormick was also at the forum, though only for a few moments to introduce himself as the Democratic candidate.