In Indiana, Republican Sen. Todd Young is working to defend his seat against challengers Democrat Thomas McDermott Jr. and Libertarian James Sceniak on the November ballot.
So far, Young is seen as the frontrunner as a well-known fundraiser with more name recognition, but both McDermott and Young have ads on TV as of this week.
IndyStar asked each candidate to fill out a questionnaire explaining their stance on key issues, from abortion to marijuana legalization. Here’s where candidates stand on the issues, in 100 words or less, edited only for length and lightly for grammar.
Meet Sen. Todd YoungYoung attempts to focus on bills rather than talk show soundbites
Meet Thomas McDermott Indiana Democrat running for U.S. Senate compared to Donald Trump
Meet James SceniakLibertarian Sceniak plays the long game
Question: Should Congress pass any laws either restricting abortions or codifying abortion-rights into federal law? If so, what provisions should those laws contain?
McDermott: First of all: I’m pro-choice. I believe all Hoosiers deserve to make their own health care decisions. Elected officials like our current senator that support fully banning abortion with no exceptions are extreme and simply cruel. I will fight in Washington, D.C. to codify Roe and restore Hoosiers’ freedoms and civil liberties. The gerrymandered supermajority in the Indiana Statehouse has already shown us that they refuse to protect women — or even listen to them. That means we must codify Roe on the federal level.
Sceniak: I consider myself personally pro-life, but banning and criminalizing does not work. Abortions will still be performed and often with greater risk, thus losing more lives. Our end goal should always be to preserve life. This can only be done by increasing society’s support for life. My plan for reducing abortions involves supporting adoption through substantial tax breaks and continuing to subsidize the cost of adoption, supporting foster care, ensuring every individual has the opportunity and freedom to pursue happiness by ensuring we fight inflation and waste, and to ensure we educate young men and women in safe sex practices.
Young: It was the right decision for the Supreme Court to restore authority over this issue back to the states, allowing each state to make its own laws regarding abortion. I am pro-life, but I also understand this issue divides our country and divides Washington. In the Senate, there are not 60 votes to legalize or ban abortions, and this is an issue that will be decided by each individual state.
Inflation and gas prices
Q; Should Congress address inflation or rising gas prices, and if so, how?
McDermott: Elected officials need to do more to address the needs of working families and that means tackling inflation, making sure jobs pay living wages, and fighting unnecessary taxes. My opponent has been in Washington for over a decade, yet he points the finger at the president when it comes to inflation. I promise that when I’m in Washington, regardless of whom the president is, I will work to pass policies that help Americans and their financial well-being. We can tackle inflation in real, meaningful ways if we can look beyond the partisan politics that currently dominate our U.S. Senate.
Sceniak: Inflation is a monetary phenomenon and is caused by the rising money supply. The money supply doubled from 2020 to 2021, putting too many dollars in circulation at the same time there were supply shortages. What Congress can do to reduce inflation is reduce wasteful spending, which means less borrowing, resulting in less pressure to increase the money supply. As far as addressing rising gas prices, Congress should encourage more drilling and more refining capacity to increase the supply of oil and repeal laws like the Jones Act that make it difficult to transport oil across the country.
Young: When President Joe Biden and the Democrats took control of Washington, the cost of a gallon of gas was $2.38. Gas skyrocketed in price because of his policies. On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline and supported other anti-energy production policies found in the Green New Deal.
High gas prices hit everyone, but they especially hurt middle class and low-income families, and people on fixed incomes. The best way to reduce gas prices is to unleash American energy production. A Republican Congress will pass legislation expanding our domestic energy supply.
Gun violence and gun control
Q: Congress passed a gun reform law this summer. What else, if anything, should be done to limit mass shootings?
McDermott: As a gun owner and a Navy veteran, I was taught how to use firearms responsibly. I support the Second Amendment and I don’t want to take away your gun. I have a lifetime license to carry. Still, I believe military-style assault weapons do not have a place on our streets, where they can be used against our police, our children and our neighbors. We need to pass effective gun safety measures, eliminate loopholes that put guns in the hands of those that shouldn’t have them, and protect our children so that schools are safe and secure.
Sceniak: “Shall not be infringed” is self-explanatory. I will always support the civil rights of people to defend their family, person and property. Creating better access to mental health resources should be a starting point. The more we take care of our neighbors through these services the more we will address the heart of these issues. When we create a culture of mentally healthy and happy individuals, who have a future to look forward to, violence will decrease including those violent acts that are not committed with a gun.
Young: I support the Second Amendment. When it comes to violent gun crime, lawful gun owners are not the problem, criminals are. We don’t have to choose between protecting Second Amendment rights and making our communities safer. We can and should do both. To deal with the root causes of violence, I have long supported increased federal funding for better access to mental health services and to train more mental health providers, particularly in school settings. To that end, I supported the Safer Communities Act because it is the most substantial investment in community-based mental health services in our nation’s history.
Q: Are there any federal election reforms, such as those updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, that you would support?
McDermott: Yes, I support the Electoral Count Act and would also fight to end Citizens United to remove unfettered money in politics that allows special interest groups to dominate elections over the American people. Money is power in today’s politics, and that power is too concentrated at the moment in favor of corporations and Super PACs instead of ordinary Americans. Taking dark money out of our elections will help elect candidates that have to answer to people and not corporations or special interests.
Sceniak: Election security and reforms are essential for civil conversations and politics to take place. Election security is extremely important. We need to ensure that every vote counts and we have confidence in our electoral system. The Constitution leaves the electoral process to each state, and election reforms should happen at the state level. At the federal level, the top priority is to ensure that states practice equality within their voting laws, ensuring that all voices are heard through the democratic practice of elections.
Young: I joined a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues in introducing the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act. This bill was the result of several months of discussion and negotiation within a bipartisan working group.
This legislation establishes clear guidelines and common sense reforms for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes through the Electoral Count Act, and has received several endorsements across the ideological spectrum. I hope to see this bill get signed into law this year.
Jan. 6 committee
Q: Is the House Jan. 6 committee necessary to investigate what happened on Jan. 6, 2020?
McDermott: Yes. Americans deserve to know the full scope of what happened that day and how it happened. My belief is that no one is above the law, and when our Capitol Police are attacked and our elected leaders targeted with violence, it’s essential that we get to the truth of the matter and punish those that were involved. My opponent says he supports law enforcement, but when given the chance to support the Capitol Police he turned his back on them by refusing to support their efforts to get to the bottom of what happened on Jan. 6.
Sceniak: No one person is above the law. If a crime is thought to be committed, it should go through the proper channels of investigation. House committees can be part of this process. We should hold government officials to high standards as well as investigate what broke down with security. In addition to those issues, we should also investigate why so many Americans did not believe their voice was heard through the election process. My caution is that in investigating we do this to seek justice and not simply to gain political momentum.
Young: I was appalled by the violence on Jan. 6, as I stated at the time and many times since. I am against all violent protests. I have never been shy to condemn violence from any group, no matter their political background. The most critical investigations are the legal ones. We have a Justice Department that charges and prosecutes criminal activity and that process is ongoing, as it should be.
Q: Should protections for same-sex and interracial marriages be enshrined in federal law?
McDermott: Yes. The Supreme Court has shown us that it is not afraid to get rid of 50 years of precedent when it overruled Roe v. Wade. If left to the states, we will have a patchwork of different laws in different states that will deny basic freedoms that are already protected by federal law through Supreme Court precedent.
Scentiak: I am proud to stand with all Hoosiers and their families. Interracial marriage and same-sex marriage is part of the unique cultural diversity in Indiana as well as throughout all of America. Ideally the government should not regulate marriage and love through licensing, but because it does, we must seek laws that protect all marriages. Discriminatory practices against interracial marriage and same-sex marriage should not be tolerated by states nor federal law. I stand with the Libertarian party that recognized this from their inception in 1971, before either of the other parties. Love is love.
Young: Given the Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage in 2015, I think most people consider this issue settled. A lot of Hoosiers I hear from wonder why the government regulates marriage at all. In the Senate, there are continued conversations about how to ensure any bill the Senate considers would include religious freedom protections, which are critically important. If a bill related to this topic comes to the floor for a vote, I will review it and discuss it with my constituents before deciding how I will vote.
Q; Are there any immigration reforms you think Congress should pursue?
McDermott: I support real immigration reform, not the empty talk, scare tactics, and political stunts you see in Washington year after year. As the husband of an immigrant, I know how important immigrants are to America and our history. As a Navy veteran, I know how important the safety and security of our border is. We must look at smart and compassionate solutions. This is America — we know these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. My opponent has been talking about immigration for 12 years and he’s done nothing about it. Let’s elect someone that will work toward real solutions.
Scentiak: Immigration is a top priority. We are a nation of immigrants and a melting pot of unique cultural diversity. Just as a castle has a moat, we need to protect our nation with a vetting process. Our drawbridge should be wide and welcoming, allowing for any peaceful person who seeks freedom and prosperity to come to America. As a senator, I will promote and vote with policies that allow for those who want to live, work, and contribute to our society and economy to have access through work visas and accept refugees from oppressive regimes like Venezuela.
Young: I served on the Arizona-Mexico border while I was in the Marines. I have seen firsthand the drugs and human smuggling that result from open borders. I’m doing everything I can in Congress to work with the brave men and women of the Border Patrol — who, I’m proud to say, have endorsed my campaign for reelection — to get them the tools they need to handle this crisis. That effort will include an actual physical fence in some areas, and other technologies, so that we have the people and resources to cover the border, including the desolate area where I served.
Student loan debt
Q: Do you agree with President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, and do you support any other initiatives to either reduce the cost of college or decrease student loan debt?
McDermott: I agree with this one-time debt relief solution. However, I also believe that the program should be extended to those who attended community colleges and took non-college paths like trade unions and other professions. We all know the real problem is the ever-rising price of a college education. I’ve tried to tackle this problem as mayor of Hammond by starting the College Bound Scholarship Program, which has provided scholarships to thousands of Hammond’s graduating seniors. We must reduce the costs and lower barriers to an education in this country so that we do not stifle yet another generation’s economic opportunities.
Scentiak: The president’s student loan forgiveness is a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to a specific group of people — college graduates. I believe, due to financial institutions and federal policies, that many students were extorted into debt that is difficult to pay down. Some relief, such as forgiving the interest due on that debt, is a good policy. With a nation that is $31 trillion in debt we are not in a position to forgive all college debt without bringing substantial harm to future generations and their economic opportunities.
Young: Asking Hoosiers who didn’t attend college or already paid off their college debt to foot the bill for others is an unfair, misguided proposal. It will do nothing to make higher education more affordable, which is what we should really be focused on. I know the value of education. I served for it, attending the Naval Academy and commissioning in the Marine Corps. Student loan repayment is a short-term “solution” that fails to address the root of the issue: the out-of-control costs of higher education, and the lack of incentives to study practical subjects.
Q: Biden recently announced that he has directed his administration to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Do you support the federal decriminalization of marijuana?
McDermott: Decriminalizing marijuana is the right thing to do. Hoosier seniors and veterans are especially on my mind when it comes to the reclassification of cannabis. Sen. Todd Young and other Indiana leaders have abandoned them on this issue and they deserve access to the health benefits marijuana provides, as well as the economic benefits that would come to the Hoosier state.
Scentiak: Yes. Cannabis usage and possession has no victim, therefore it should not be a crime. The drug war has wasted countless taxpayer resources. Cannabis laws have often been over enforced in minority communities while ignored in others causing further discrimination to these families. Instead, we should treat drug abuse as a medical issue, which would allow those who have addictions to get the help they need rather than fearing they’ll be sent to a jail cell. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and we see the same result with cannabis.
Young: This is another example of President Biden taking unilateral action to grab headlines and distract from his other failures. I continue to support more research about the health impact of marijuana use, and I’ve co-sponsored legislation to begin clinical trials for veterans. Ultimately, the legalization question is best addressed by states.
Call IndyStar Statehouse and political watchdog reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270 or email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.