Candidates with aspirations for the statehouse and Washington D.C. had the chance to win over Clay County voters Thursday night.
During the 2010 Candidate Forum, a total of 10 hopefuls for United States Representative, District 8 and Indiana State Representative, districts 44 and 46 introduced themselves and answered questions provided by those in attendance.
The majority of questions were directed toward those running for United States Representative -- Democrat W. Trent VanHaaften and Republicans Billy J. Mahoney, Kristi Risk, John Lee Smith and Steve Westell -- and centered on federal policy.
"I believe we should shrink the federal government and promote growth on the local level," Westell said in response to a question regarding if there should be a reduction of cabinet-level positions, bureaucracy and duplication of services. "The Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other duplicate agencies need to be shut down and give the 17 powers back to the states which has rights for them."
Mahoney agreed duplicate services need to be either shut down or consolidated, which he said would also help taxpayers' wallets.
"We don't need all these branches creating excuses and unnecessary taxes," he said. "We need to put everyone together and act as one."
Risk said she believed many of the services were unconstitutional, which has contributed to the nation's high debt level.
While also believing some consolidation is needed, VanHaaften said it should not be limited to just the federal level.
"What needs to be done is to break down why we have each service, and if some serve the same purpose, then yes, consolidate them," he said. "However, to maximize governmental efficiency, we need to look across the board at the national, state and local levels."
The candidates also had strong emotions about protecting the small farmers from shareholders in large corporations.
"Sometimes small farms are corporations as well," Smith said. "But we need to look harder at preserving family farms."
While each of the candidates acknowledged there is an unfair control of the market by corporate farms which make it difficult for family farms to compete, Westell said he believed the entire process is skewed.
"The fact that the federal government is taking tax money and redistributing it is wrong," Westell said. "The government picks winners and losers, but the money needs to be kept in your pocket and let the federal government get out of it."
One question was aimed at VanHaaften, asking if he is in favor of the direction of the Democratic Party, along with other issues like the recently passed healthcare bill.
"I'm not completely happy with the direction of the party, but I am sure there are some Republicans who feel the same way about their party," he said. "While I have been a Democrat all my life, I do not believe there is enough Midwest Democratic influence in Congress. We view things differently in the Midwest, and use a little more common sense."
VanHaaften added he felt the healthcare bill was a "mixed bag," noting he does favor placing Primary Care physicians in rural areas. However, he does believe the amnesty bill has some issues.
"We have to make sure that our laws are followed," he said. "I have no sympathy for those intentionally breaking laws and asking for forgiveness later."
Those running for State Representative in District 44 (incumbent Democrat Nancy Michael and Democrat James (Jim) Baird) and District 46 (Republican Bob Heaton and Democrats Kal Ellis and Bionca Gambill) only had one question directed their way.
"I oppose the employment of truly illegal aliens by Indiana businesses," Ellis said in response to the question about their position on Indiana companies employing illegal immigrants. "However, if they have working Visas, that is a different situation."
Heaton said Indiana companies should focus on employing citizens who are out of work.
"There are people who are legally here that are out of work and want/need these jobs," he said.
Both Gambill and Michael said companies hiring illegal immigrants need to pay closer attention and be more responsible.
"We need to make those companies hiring illegals more accountable through fines," Gambill said.
Baird took a straight-forward approach to the question by saying, "Illegal immigrants don't need to be here and they don't need to be employed by Indiana businesses."
The final question during this portion of the forum went to all the candidates on their stance regarding cap and trade, the healthcare bill and whether there should be term limits at the state and federal levels.
Each of the candidates was against cap and trade and in favor of term limits.
"People tend to get stale after a while and there needs to be a constant input of new and fresh ideas," Michael said. "I even have term limits on myself and wish the state would have a four-year, two term limit."
Most of the candidates were also against the healthcare bill, with those in favor wanting those in elected positions to know bills in their entirety before voting.
"Those who have a vote in a vital matter, like the healthcare bill, need to know what all it entails before voting on it," VanHaaften said. "It doesn't do any good to pass a bill, only to have to need it explained further after the fact."
Republican United States Senator candidates Marlin Stutzman and incumbent John Waterman, along with Democratic State Senator, District 39 candidate Steven Thais were not in attendance, but had prepared statements read during the forum.