ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WLFI) - Three men vying to replace Mitch Daniels as Indiana's next governor squared off for the first of three debates Wednesday evening. A recent poll shows Republican candidate Mike Pence with a 13-point lead over Democratic candidate John Gregg, with Libertarian candidate Rupert Boneham in a distant third.
Former Indianapolis Star executive editor Dennis Ryerson led the debate, with each candidate drawing lots to determine the order.
In opening remarks, each man brought attention to his strengths, John Gregg's bipartisanship, Rupert Boneham's change of pace, and Mike Pence's plan, which includes income tax cuts.
"If you're tired of the gridlock in Washington D.C., look beyond those labels," Gregg said. "I'm the only candidate who has balanced Indiana's budget, improved funding for Indiana's schools, cut taxes for Hoosiers and done so in a bipartisan way."
"I have shown people how to get themselves out of trouble and back to work to empower people," Boneham said. "I want to stand here as a change to what the status quo is. I am definitely that change."
"I'm running because I believe Indiana is on the verge of growth and opportunity," Pence said. "If we produce a plan, which I have, in my Roadmap for Indiana, I think we can take Indiana from good to great."
With voters asking and sending in questions on topics like education, health care and mental health, Boneham pointed out his support of unions and said he wanted to restructure the way the criminal population is handled.
"Instead of spending $50,000, or $60,000 or more locking people up, figuring out different ways to actually bring them back to being a productive member of society," Boneham said.
Gregg took advantage of the debate format to attack Pence's voting and attendance record in Congress.
"There's candidate Mike Pence and there's Congressman Mike Pence," Gregg said. "You've never passed a piece of legislation in your 12 years in Congress and you invoke Governor Daniels' name. To kind of take a parody on a former Hoosier, I know Mitch Daniels, Mitch Daniels is a friend of mine, but Mitch Daniels shows up to work every day."
Pence ignored several jabs, but finally hit back on Gregg's budget record while Speaker of the Indiana House.
"For five of the six years that you led the Indiana State General Assembly, we ran deficits in the tens of millions of dollars," Pence said. "Just talking about bipartisanship isn't going to be good enough, you're going to need a plan."
There are two more gubernatorial debates scheduled, Wednesday Oct. 17 in South Bend and Thursday Oct. 25 in Fort Wayne.
Both begin at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live right here on our website.
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