In the race for Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District seat, Democratic challenger Shellie Yoder sparred with Republican incumbent Todd Young during their first debate at Franklin College on Wednesday.
Yoder is a political newcomer who is taking on the freshman lawmaker in the recently-redrawn district, which covers the bulk of southern Indiana. For most of the discussion, Yoder was on the offensive and went after Young’s voting record for a lack of bipartisanship and alleged he backs the GOP agenda “95 percent” of the time.
“Congress has a 9 percent approval rating,” she said. “That’s worse than the Communist Party.”
But Young told debate onlookers that he is proud of his voting record because it reflects the values of his party and his constituents.
“I do my homework. I do my due diligence and then I vote my conscience and explain my votes. That is leadership. This is a conservative district. I am not a progressive. I am a conservative. It’s no surprise that I would be voting consistent with the Republican Party,” he says.
The debate covered several issues, such as job creation, entitlement reform, education and equal pay for women. But one area of serious disagreement between the two was President Obama’s health care overhaul.
Yoder says she supports the Affordable Care Act, adding that Hoosiers have benefited from the law. She also argued it would become more popular as additional provisions are implemented.
In campaign ads, Young has attacked Obamacare for cutting $716 billion out of Medicare and taxing medical device manufacturers. He pledged to continue efforts to repeal the legislation because it does not control costs to his liking.
Yoder challenged Young’s claims about the law’s cuts to Medicare, and his repeated votes to overturn the law while supporting Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
“And as far as the $716 billion that the Affordable Care Act is taking out of Medicare, it is putting it right back in to the services that seniors provide,” says Yoder. “Mr. Young has presented and voted for twice a budget that also takes out $716 billion from Medicare, but does not put it back in.”
Despite Yoder’s criticism, Young embraced the Ryan plan and took credit for helping the GOP vice presidential nominee in crafting the proposal.
Young’s campaign says their candidate offered a clear vision for a stronger economic recovery debate, adding that less regulation and other pro-growth measures will lead to prosperity. But the Yoder camp says the discussion underscores a fundamental difference in how to revive the middle-class and that Hoosiers need a lawmaker who is more attentive to the district.
“I’m tired of this partisanship. I am sick and tired of this being such as divisive America that we live in today. You can barely even watch TV anymore,” said Yoder. “It just seems like it’s toxic and you have one side pitted against the other, and I want to work together.”
The two will meet for a final debate in Corydon next Monday