News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 24, 2012

Forum features Indiana House candidates

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Wabash Valley voters got a change to quiz their candidates for the Indiana House of Representatives Tuesday night at the Vigo County Annex.

Eight candidates from the four Indiana House districts that include parts of Vigo County sat before a room of more than two dozen voters to take questions in a League of Women Voters-hosted event.

All candidates seeking the offices showed up for the event. They were Alan Morrison, a Republican running in District 42 against Democrat Mark Spelbring. Clyde Kersey, a Democrat, running for re-election in District 43 against Republican John Cunningham. Also District 45 candidates Bruce Borders, a Republican, and Kreg Battles, a Democrat and District 46 candidates, Democrat Jim Mann and Republican incumbent Bob Heaton.

The questions dealt with a wide range of topics from methamphetamine manufacturing to education policy. Here is a sample of some of the questions and portions of the candidates’ responses:

• Would you support making the pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug to combat methamphetamine manufacturing in Indiana?

Cunningham: “Absolutely, I would vote to make it a prescription drug.”

Kersey: “We are at the point where we must make it a prescription drug.”

Borders: “At this point, I would not support” making it a prescription drug.

Battles: “Unfortunately, we may have to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug.”

Heaton: “I was one of five that voted for this.”

Mann: “I would be reluctant.”

Morrison: “We need a better tracking system.”

Spelbring: “I would support making it a prescription drug.”

• Candidates were asked whether they support standardized school testing, such as the ISTEP test.

Kersey: “The ISTEP test is a failure. It should be repealed and we should start again.”

Cunningham: “We do need to get rid of the ISTEP.”

Battles: “At some point, we have to make it a diagnostic test again.”

Borders: “I can see replacing” the ISTEP with a test more favored by teachers.

Mann: Opposes multiple choice testing such as the ISTEP. “Someone needs to speak up for our kids.”

Heaton: There needs to be some sort of evaluation. “Not every school is [successful] like Terre Haute South High School.”

Spelbring: “I do think [the ISTEP] needs to be completely overhauled.”

Morrison: “There might be things that we can do to improve [the ISTEP]…We have to be tested.”

Asked whether government should be “streamlined” as outlined in Indiana’s Kernan-Shepard Report, most of the Democrats on the panel responded that they favor keeping township governments. Only Spelbring said he favored some aspects of the report. “There could be some streamlining,” he said.

The Republicans were more mixed in their response. Borders said state laws should be enforced that help prevent government waste or abuse. Heaton pointed to examples of highly-paid local officials and Cunningham said he “would like to keep local government local.” Morrison said streamlining can be done, but Kernan-Shepard was never meant to be imposed 100 percent.

Republicans and Democrats also differed in their response to a question about the Indiana Department of Child Services. When asked whether they favored changes made in the way DCS handles reports of child neglect and abuse, the Democrats largely favored a return to more local control. Battles called the current system “broken,” stating it puts life-and-death decisions in the hands of people in Indianapolis, far from the reported problems.

On the GOP side, Heaton said the system could using “tweaking” to make it better, Morrison said “we need to do a better job as a society” raising kids, Cunningham said he would like more local control and such cases placed under the jurisdiction of local sheriffs. And Borders defended the changes at DCS, saying the number of caseworkers has risen and the number of child deaths is lower. “It’s a radically-improved system,” Borders said.

At the start of the two-hour forum, each candidate was given an opportunity to introduce himself to the audience. Each was also given an equal amount of time to answer each of the questions, which were read to them by Betty Martin, a member of the League of Women Voters of Vigo County.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or