In the second of WBAA’s mini-golf conversations about the 2018 elections, Indiana State Senate candidates Sherry Shipley and Ron Alting hit the links for what’s likely to be their only joint question-and-answer session this election season -- at least if Alting's camp gets its way.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A candidate's miniature golf score should NOT be construed, in any way, as reflecting a candidate's fitness for office.
In September, negotiations seemed to be going well between WBAA and Steve Klink, Alting's campaign manager and an advisor to two other Tippecanoe County Republicans running this year, who was setting up the outing on Alting's behalf. Klink had called TV station WLFI to tell them about it, but WBAA politely declined their offer to join the discussion.
But within an hour of letting them know that, Klink phoned to say not only that WLFI had suddenly offered to assemble a half-hour debate, but also that since Alting was only going to do one debate – Klink was insistent about this point – he thought he’d rather have his candidate do a 30-minute debate than an hour of golf – unless, of course, WBAA wanted to reconsider letting other media come along.
Faced with that predicament, we elected to invite both local TV stations and the local newspaper and finally got the outing scheduled.
Navigating An Environment Light On Debates
On the course, we asked the candidates about an election season that’s seen few debates.
“If we’re really serious about transparency, I believe that extends to us standing before constituents, standing before voters and taking those tough questions and standing behind what we believe in,” Shipley says.
Alting says he’s not getting enough credit for attending fundraisers and knocking on doors to have one-on-one conversations with voters.
“I am communicating with the constituents, but it’ll be under my terms, not my opponent’s,” he says.
Who's In Charge?
The candidates both say the legislature should stop taking away local control from municipalities.
“There’s always been a push to take away their number one funding, which is TIF districts," Alting says. "And I’m the one that has went to the mic and has killed that in every that year my party has challenged that to take place. It’s one of the few economic tools that cities have.”
“We have a ban on banning plastic bags in the State of Indiana. And I don’t understand if a community wants to do that why they aren’t allowed to make those own policies," Shipley says. "The same thing with fireworks policies.”
Tariffs -- good or bad?
And the two candidates seem to agree on the effect of President Trump’s tariffs on the district, whose economy is a mix of farming and manufacturing – but Alting hedged a bit.
"It could end up having a devastated effect on us. I prefer always good dialogue and try to solve things through setting down and negotiating, but that’s how I would have proceeded if I was at that level," he says.
Does that mean he'd have voted for the tariffs?
"I’m not running for that position," Alting says.
Being Clear About Transparency
Shipley repeatedly mentioned giving more funding to public schools and only giving money to private and charter schools if they follow the same rules their public brethren do and agree to be more transparent about their rules and policies.
“Those private schools don’t necessarily have to take the kids with emotional issues, disabilities," Shipley says. "So public schools are becoming the dumping ground and it is really causing a social chasm, if you will.”
Alting responded to a different question about transparency to say he thinks Indiana already does it well.
“It’s something you’ve gotta have. So I’ve never, ever heard any complaints that Indiana’s not transparent,” he says.
That’s even though the Center for Public Integrity gave Indiana a failing grade as recently as 2015 for public access to information.
Why You And Not The Other Person?
When asked why people should vote for him, Alting points to his chairmanship of the Senate’s powerful Public Policy Committee and his five terms in the Senate. Shipley says the body needs a couple changes that she’d help bring about.
“I think we need people that are data-based policymakers and I think we need legislators that are really looking to enact policies for the next century, not just the next election,” she says.
Currently, Alting has not committed to participating in any formal debates before the election.
Below are videos of answers given by the candidates to the nine questions asked during the round of golf (one after each hole). Answers have been edited to reflect, as much as possible, only content responding directly to the question asked.
By virtue of a pre-match coin flip, Ron Alting answered questions first on odd-numbered holes and Sherry Shipley answered questions first on even-numbered holes.
QUESTION 1: What's the most important issue in this particular race this year?
QUESTION 2: Has the legislature eroded home rule and local control in recent years? If yes, how would you fix it?
QUESTION 3: The Indiana Senate has, for several years, failed to hold a vote on a hate crimes bill. Will you push for such legislation, if elected?
QUESTION 4: Have President Trump's tariffs helped or hurt your district, which has both many farmers and many manufacturers?
QUESTION 5: Mitch Daniels recently wrote that transparency legislation sometimes hinders efficient operation of government. Is he right, and does Indiana have enough transparency?
QUESTION 6: This is the only joint public appearance currently scheduled between you two. Is that enough to give the voters a sense of which candidate they should pick?
QUESTION 7: In light of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, do you think Indiana needs to change the way its laws treat both accusers and the accused in sexual assault cases?
QUESTION 8: If you could change one Indiana law, what change would you make?
QUESTION 9: Why should voters pick you and not your opponent?