News From Terre Haute, Indiana


October 20, 2010

8th District candidates debate election issues

Dem, Libertarian largely differ on nation’s agenda

TERRE HAUTE — Two of the three candidates hoping to capture Indiana’s 8th Congressional District seat discussed trade, farm policy, taxes, Social Security and the role of government among other topics at a candidates debate Tuesday night in Terre Haute.

Democratic candidate Trent Van Haaften and Libertarian candidate John Cunningham answered questions in the forum, which took place at Ivy Tech Community College on U.S. 41 South. Republican candidate Larry Bucshon did not participate but was invited, organizers said.

“I believe America is at a crossroads,” Van Haaften said at the start of the forum. “I will hold Congress accountable” if elected. Van Haaften said he would work to close “tax loopholes” that encourage companies to move jobs out of the country.

He also said he favors “fair trade” with foreign countries and tax incentives for small business as a way of creating new jobs.

Cunningham, meanwhile, emphasized his opposition to U.S. trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

He also spoke of securing U.S. borders, auditing the Federal Reserve, returning to a gold standard and ending U.S. military involvement overseas.

“We don’t go around looking for dragons to slay,” Cunningham said. But, in the case of a foreign attack, the U.S. should be “ready to respond,” he said.

Perhaps in a nod to what some believe will be a strong showing for Republican candidates in the Nov. 2 election, Van Haaften, a member of the Indiana General Assembly and former county prosecutor, emphasized his ability to work in a bipartisan manner.

“We need a change in leadership on both sides of the aisle in Washington,” Van Haaften said, adding he also favors preserving the tax cuts passed early in the presidency of George W. Bush. “We should extend [the tax cuts] for some period of time,” Van Haaften said.

Cunningham, meanwhile, said he would support U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, as House Speaker. He also urged an end to U.S. foreign aid.

Both Van Haaften and Cunningham said they are “pro-life” on the abortion issue. And both spoke against ending Social Security.

On other topics, Cunningham said he would work to repeal the new federal health care legislation that passed earlier this year. Van Haaften said he favors many aspects of the legislation, such as guaranteed health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. But he also said he is “greatly concerned” about the cost of the legislation.

About 80 people attended the debate, which featured an empty chair and an untouched bottle of water for Republican Bucshon.

The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Vigo County, the Tribune-Star, WTHI TV and Ivy Tech.

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


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