Indiana’s 9th District is being called next year’s most competitive congressional race. Four Democrats say they want to face Republican Representative Trey Hollingsworth.
The candidates joined more than 80 residents in a packed Ivy Tech Bloomington classroom for one of the first forums last night.
The candidates were asked about the opioid epidemic, gun control, free college education and workplace discrimination drawing familiar responses from the partisan crowd.
But candidate and truck company owner Robert Chatlos says rallying around common issues isn’t going to be enough to defeat Hollingsworth.
“Tonight’s been agonizing for me because once again, I want your attention to not be focused on issues, but the things that will keep us out of office,” Chatlos says.
Chatlos is a Bloomington resident with an Air Force record that includes Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. He is pro-abortion rights, in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, and his platform includes a focus on single-payer healthcare, public education reform and renewable energy.
Candidate Brandon Hood says he wants to help change the political conversation.
“I think it’s important to beat and put Republican values behind us into the future and try to give ourselves some progressive breathing room.”
Hood's platform includes on debt-free education, labor rights and drug reform. He supports establishing a universal basic income.
Candidate Liz Watson says experience writing legislation that benefits working families gives her an advantage over the other candidates.
“The truth is folks, if we have to bring someone in who has to learn on the job and spend two years trying to figure out exactly how it works, I don’t think that person is staying,” says Watson.
Watson is a professor at Indiana University in Bloomington. Her platform focuses on jobs, affordable health care and high-quality public education.
Though candidate and civil rights attorney Dan Canon disagrees.
“I would respectfully disagree with the idea is what we need is Washington experience, or what we need is New York experience, or San Francisco experience or any other kind of experience is Indiana experience,” says Canon.
Canon is a civil rights lawyer from New Albany who worked on the Obergefell v. Hodges case that resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. His listed priorities include health care, paid family leave and minimum wage reform.
Hoosier Action sponsored the candidate forum program. Rep. Hollingsworth was invited, but did not respond to the invitation or attend the forum.