TERRE HAUTE, IND. - Republican candidate Larry Bucshon was not in attendance during last week's congressional candidate debate in Indiana's 8th district, and Democrat Trent Van Haaften and Libertarian John Cunningham took notice.
In a district that has been known historically as the "Bloody 8th," both candidates took jabs at the absent Republican who is vying against them to fill the spot that has been held by the popular Democrat Brad Ellsworth since 2007.
"Larry Bucshon should be in this chair," remarked Cunningham while answering a question from the audience about agriculture. "He let his Republican constituents down."
Cunningham's main talking points consisted of his alignment with the political ideologies of Congressman Ron Paul and his support for the repeal of both NAFTA and healthcare reform.
The candidates fielded questions from the crowd via a moderator, which directly addressed the concerns of members of event's host, the League of Women's Voters of Vigo County, and students from the community college that housed the event. Van Haaften asserted his positions, which included creating Indiana jobs, cutting wasteful spending, monitoring health care costs while still supporting and upholding affordable health care, strengthening immigration regulation, and reaching across the aisle to foster bipartisan legislation.
On several occasions throughout the debate, Van Haaften mentioned his opponent Bucshon's support of "corporate tax loopholes" that allowed Whirlpool to send upwards of 11,000 of formerly Indiana based jobs to Mexico. Several former employees of the company protested the Republican candidate in the days before debate, holding signs reading messages such as "Bucshon is Wrong for Indiana" outside his Terre Haute headquarters.
Van Haaften also referenced his successful past as a prosecutor. During his career, he was well known for his tough stance on the rampant methamphetamine problem that plagues so much of southern Indiana, as well as working in conjunction with Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, which asserts his dedication to bipartisanship.
"As a prosecutor, party doesn't matter. Doing right matters," he said. "I basically do what I have been doing my entire life, and that is working for the people, not my party."
The Democrat also condemned his Republican opponent for not sharing the belief that policy should trump politics. He was sure to make the audience aware that special interest groups located far from the Midwest have funded close to half a million dollars of the Republican's campaign. Van Haaften concluded the debate by reminding voters that his opponent "showed an arrogance" to them by not appearing to answer their questions.