Indiana Election 2011 | Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations

Prickly Final Debate in 9th District Race

Candidates in Indiana’s 9th District Congressional race sparred over Social Security and tax hikes during their final debate Monday evening.

9th District Debate Sign

Photo: Stan Jastrzebski

A sign outside Bloomington's Buskirk-Chumley Theater advertises the final 9th District debate.

Candidates in Indiana’s 9th District Congressional race – labeled by many watchers as too close to call — sparred over Social Security and tax hikes during their final debate Monday evening.

Incumbent Baron Hill, a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat, said he supports eliminating Bush-era tax cuts for Americans earning more than 250-thousand dollars, and continuing pay-as-you-go policies.  But Republican challenger Todd Young said any tax hike is bad and clashed with Hill on Paygo.

“With respect to Paygo, that is a ruse for spendthrift politicians.  Baron Hill has voted to suspend the Paygo rules 85% of the time.”

But the most testy exchange was about a pledge Hill has signed saying he won’t support privatization of Social Security.  The congressman challenged his GOP opponent on the matter, eventually getting Young to sign the pledge on stage after both men raised their voices to be heard over a chorus of cheers and boos from the crowd.  Libertarian candidate Greg Knott — who later called for Hill to resign because of alleged earmarks for a lobbying firm where Hill once worked — took the opportunity to lighten the atmosphere and get a laugh from the audience.

“I wish I would have known Congressman Hill wasn’t going to abide by our pledge not to use props — I’d have brought my own,” he said.

Hill began the debate by saying there’s too much money in Washington, but Young fired back that the congressman had taken nearly two million dollars from special interests during ten years in the House.  At the same time, Young said he welcomes money available to him from third-party groups under new campaign financing rules which say those groups do not have to disclose or limit their political spending.   Young, a former Marine, also repeatedly said he does not support the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which prohibits homosexuals from serving openly in the armed forces.  For his part, Hill conceded to reporters it’s been difficult getting his message that the recession would have been worse without stimulus spending to resonate with voters.

See the whole debate on WTIU’s YouTube channel.