News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Max Jones

April 2, 2012

MAX JONES: Got a question for Lugar-Mourdock debate? Submit it

TERRE HAUTE — Hoosier voters, especially those who choose a Republican ballot for the  May 8 primary election, face a difficult decision this spring. Longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar faces a spirited re-election challenge from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the GOP Senate nomination. The winner advances to a general election showdown in the fall with the presumed Democrat nominee, Rep. Joe Donnelly, and any third-party or independent candidates who qualify to run.

For decades, Sen. Lugar has been politically untouchable. His party has been solidly behind him, and Democrats haven’t been able to muster a challenge. In fact, six years ago, when Lugar sought his fifth term, the Democrats did not even field a candidate.

Times change. The emergence of the tea party in 2010 created an ideological struggle among Republicans, some of whom promote a more aggressive brand of conservatism than Lugar has practiced in his 35-year tenure in the U.S. Senate. Mourdock represents that more conservative wing of the GOP, and he clearly has the support and resources to give Lugar a stiff fight.

Unaligned or undecided Republican voters may feel ill-equipped to sort out the differences between the two. And the advertising war being waged over the airwaves may not be too helpful. Any thoughtful voter is wise to be skeptical of the attack ads.

One way for voters to get an unfiltered view of the two candidates is by watching the Lugar-Mourdock debate which will be televised throughout the state at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11. The hour-long debate is sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and conducts political debates between candidates for statewide offices.

The April 11 debate will be broadcast from the studios of WFYI, a PBS affiliate in downtown Indianapolis. As this year’s president of the Debate Commission, I appreciate WFYI making its facilities available for this important political event, and am quite pleased that the candidates agreed to participate. At this point, it appears our debate will be the only one to occur between these candidates.

A signature feature of events conducted by the Debate Commission since its founding in 2008 is that voters primarily get the opportunity to formulate and ask questions of the candidates. Questions are submitted in advance, then reviewed, vetted and selected by a commission committee. Questioners are then invited to attend the debate and ask their question in person, or record the question on video for replay at the debate.

If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask the candidates, you can submit it at www.indianadebatecommission.com. There is a question form on the right side of the main webpage. You can also submit at the commission’s Facebook page. On Facebook, just search for Indiana Debate Commission to reach the page.

More than 75 questions have been submitted since Tuesday, and many more are expected. Despite the volume, there are ways to get your question noticed and considered. Keep a question succinct and focused on a specific issue, try to avoid lacing it with your own opinion, and don’t ask questions directly targeted at one candidate. Craft fair questions that both candidates can answer.

There is no deadline for submitting questions. However, the earlier you get your question submitted, the more likely it will be considered and/or selected for use at the debate.

There is no shortage of compelling topics — jobs and the economy, gas prices, deficit reduction, the size and scope of government, social issues, international affairs, etc. All are fodder for a great debate on April 11. We just need voters to weigh in and make it happen.

Jones can be reached at (812) 231-4336, or by email at max.jones@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TribStarMax.

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