League of Women Voters holds forum for Ind. House Rep. candidates

League of Women Voters hold forum for Ind. House Rep. candidates
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 10:22 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2022 at 5:37 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana hosted a forum on Thursday for Indiana House of Representative candidates who are in competitive races.

Ryan Hatfield, Katherine Rybak, Jason Salstrom and Jada Burton’s campaign manager Jay Sollman spoke in the Browning Rooms at the Evansville Central Library on key issues.

One of the first questions candidates were asked was their stance on rising utility prices.

“In CenterPoint’s area, we are getting the Cadillacs of smart meters, when perhaps the Corolla of the smart meter might do just as well, and the reason for that is we pay for it no matter how much it costs,” Rybak said.

A lot of that conversation centered around CenterPoint Energy’s rising costs and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission — or IURC — and how the candidates felt they weren’t doing enough.

“Decisions impacting our region need to have local representation. There needs to be regional representation on the IURC, probably on the OUCC as well,” Salstrom said.

All four said they would have voted no on Senate Bill 1, the law that banned almost all abortions in the state.

As the only incumbent present, Hatfield was the only one who was in Indianapolis to participate in that vote.

“I opposed SB 1 in all of its forms, certainly in its final form. Will continue to oppose efforts to relegate women to second-class citizens,” Hatfield said.

Education and the state government’s role in funding it was another hot topic at the forum.

“For those that are already well off, the choice is already there. If you have the extra money, you can send your kids to private schools. So the question is, do poor people deserve the right to school choice, and Ms. Burton’s answer is yes,” Sollman said, representing the views of Burton.

Most of the forum was spent sharing similar ideas, as three of the four candidates are from the Democratic Party.

One moment of debate came after Sollman provided an answer on Burton’s education views.

Sollman started his answer by saying this was one topic that separates Burton and Hatfield, who is running for the same seat in the 77th District.

Hatfield responded to Sollman’s answer, addressing the audience by asking them if they want someone who will fight to fix issues — referring to himself — or someone who will join the “Republican agenda” referring to Burton.

Officials with the League of Women Voters say all candidates in competitive state house races were invited to attend.

Zack Davis and Wendy McNamara had seats saved for them at the table, but did not show up.

Hatfield and Burton are vying for the 77th District in November. Salstrom is looking to unseat Republican incumbent Tim O’Brien in District 78, and Rybak is hoping to take McNamara’s seat in the 76th District.