WESTVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Indiana's three U.S. Senate candidates faced off in the first debate of the general election campaign.
Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, Republican former state Rep. Mike Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton states their cases Monday evening at the Purdue University Northwest campus in Westville. Afterward, both Donnelly and Braun declared victory in the event.
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The race is one of the most closely watched in the U.S. and could determine which party controls the Senate next year.
The first question centered around Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation. Donnelly voted "no" on Kavanaugh. tonight he offered his reason why.
"I voted against Judge Kavanaugh because of concerns about his impartiality and concerns about his judicial temperament," Donnelly said. "But I voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's pick. My job is to not only determine the nominee, but to protect the court and Justice Gorsuch met every test. Judge Kavanaugh had concerns about impartiality and about judicial temperament."
Mike Braun responded.
"Joe's been there for 12 years in the Congress and the Senate and he's considered the least effective senator because he never sticks his neck out," he said. "He blows with the wind. In this case, he made the wrong decision on Judge Kavanaugh."
Other major issues the candidates discussed were climate change and abortion.
All three candidates said they're pro-life.
Brenton brought up the fact that she's given birth to 10 children. But, she said each person must have absolute control over their own bodies.
Donnelly said he is pro-life, but with exceptions when it comes to rape, incest and pregnancies that put the mother's life in danger.
Braun said he's been endorsed by Indiana Right to Life, National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony Group.
Candidates also took on climate change.
"We need to make that Ethanol market even more available and be used more for wind, for solar, for clean coal," Donnelly said. "If it's made in America, we want to use it."
Braun used the opportunity to talk about his real world expertise.
"When you learn it in the real world, you know how to do it," he said. "We now have energy independence and that's got to always be taken into consideration while you're keeping the environment in a healthy condition. I've lived it, that's why I'll know what to do."
Brenton also gave her stance.
"We need to have a global clean-up effort to get the plastics and dirt out of our oceans," she said. "We need heme iron to seed our photo plankton so that they're actually able to clean up our oceans for us."
Throughout the debate, Brenton circled back to the constitution. She said the constitution should serve as a muzzle for the government. Brenton said she aims to be fiscally conservative and socially accepting. And she said, for her, it boils down to two things.
"To be able to allow people the maximum freedom with really just two things in mind: don't hurt people. Don't take their stuff," she said. "Other than that, you're good with me."
Businessman and Political outsider Braun didn't participate in the post-debate press conference, a choice that Senator Donnelly made sure to point out.
"I can't say I'm surprised Mike Braun left and didn't talk to you," he said.
In the press conference, Senator Donnelly mainly addressed Braun, rather than Brenton, particularly when asked what Hoosiers should take away from the debate.
"Hoosiers should conclude that I don't want him to become our senator and take our healthcare away," he said. "That's what they should conclude."
He asked voters to remember that he has fought for healthcare, veterans, and jobs.
"I fought non-stop to bring our economy back," he explained. "We've had 70 consecutive months of job growth. That's a pretty good reason to vote for somebody."
He also re-stated why he voted no against the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
"For his lack of judicial temperament and for his lack of impartiality," he reiterated.
Brenton gave a colorful metaphor to describe her opponents.
"Trump says he wants to drain the swamp, all we're going to do with those two is add another alligator," she told reporters.
Finally, she challenged people to consider the fundamentals of Libertarian thought.
"I want everyone to decide for themselves to be more free," she stated. "I want them to examine their lives and find out where am I interacting with the government that I don't have to be."
A second scheduled between Braun, Donnelly and Brenton will be October 30 in Indianapolis.