Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Schellinger And Thompson Face Off

Democratic gubernatorial contenders Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson faced off today in one of their first joint appearances at the HPR Forum at the Madame Walker Theater. The two candidates were totally polite to one another as they set out to distinguish themselves as the best candidate to challenge the re-election of Gov. Mitch Daniels. They reserved their harshest words for him. Here are some highlights:
  • Schellinger unloaded on what he described as Daniels' "failed leadership." He condemned Daniels for taking away state workers right to collective bargaining in one of his first acts as governor, villifying educators, ignoring pocket book issues and polarizing the state. Both Schellinger and Thompson cited job statistics showing the state of Indiana ranked 48th among the states in new job creation. Schellinger said he had never seen the state more divided than it is under Gov. Daniels. He attacked Gov. Daniels "my way or the highway" approach to governing (a phrase I used to describe Gov. Daniels in a Nuvo column last year. "We need leadership that listens," he said. Schellinger reminded the audience of Daniels' ties to President George W. Bush. "George W. Bush was Daniels' mentor," Schellinger lamented.
  • Thompson similarly attacked Daniels for "failed policies" and "bad leadership." "Property taxes are up, home foreclosures are up, the number of uninsured are up, layoffs are up, gas prices are up and toll road fees are up" under Gov. Daniels' watch. "We can't afford four more years of Gov. Danies," she said.
  • Thompson emphasized her strong Indiana roots, growing up on a farm in Whitley County, while the millionaire architect Schellinger reminded his audience he knew what it was like to live from "paycheck to paycheck." Thompson told the audience about how her family nearly lost the family farm during the "agriculture crisis of the 1980s." Thompson was the first in her family to attend college she noted. She eventually earned a Phd. and became a college professor. Later elected to three terms in Congress from a Republican district where Thompson says she was known for "standing up and doing what was right." She reminded labor she voted against NAFTA and fast track trade authority.
  • Schellinger and Thompson both emphasized improving wages for Indiana workers as a high priority, although they both were a little bit short on the specifics of how they would achieve that goal. Both emphasized the need for creating a "world class" education system in furtherance of that goal. Again, the two weren't specific about how they would go about improving the quality of our public education system.
  • Both were asked what voters could expect in four years if either were elected. Schellinger said he would end polarization, improve education and grow our economy. Thompson said she would increase the high school graduation rate and increase pay for average Indiana workers. Thompson described herself as a "fiscal conservative" who "never voted for a tax increase" while she was a member of Congress.
  • Although both candidates were aware Gov. Daniels was prepared to announce his own property tax plan in a few short hours, neither gave much in the way of specifics about what they would do to reduce property taxes. Schellinger blamed Gov. Daniels for the current property tax mess because it happened on his watch. He said any plan he would put forward had to have a consensus, be based on a person's ability to pay and provide our schools a steady stream of revenue. Thompson said she supported raising income and sales taxes to reduce the property tax, although she emphasized she would not increase either of those taxes significantly above their current rates.
  • So who was the winner in today's joint appearance? The short answer is Gov. Daniels because he was able to completely upstage media coverage of today's event by scheduling a media briefing for his own property tax plan this afternoon during the HPR Forum. Thompson even went so far as to say she thought Gov. Daniels deliberately planned the timing of today's announcement to upstage media coverage of today's HPR Forum. That aside, if you are a Thompson supporter, I suspect you would have been pleased by her performance. She comes across very sincere and reassuring. Schellinger's delivery today was very polished--some would say too polished. He clearly had points put to memory on every topic which came up. You didn't see any spontaneity in anything he had to say today, and he didn't stumble. It should be an interesting primary race for the Democrats.
Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman put in an appearance for the Daniels' administration and delivered a positive message, highlighting the administration's successes in stark contrast to the dark picture painted by the Democratic candidates. Audience members were hoping to be teased with some of the details of Gov. Daniels' property tax plan, but Skillman didn't give anything up. Most of the media bugged out early to attend a briefing by Daniels' staff, skipping Skillman's speech.


Anonymous said...

Hearing the promises that JLT and the 800 pound gorilla made to the audience reminded me of those student body elections back in junior high school. When they gave their speeches all the candidates promised more convocations, better cafeteria food, prettier cheerleaders, etc, etc, etc, knowing full well that they were completely powerless to implement any of those things. That didn't stop them from making those promises, though, because they figured that was what they were supposed to say. Much like today when we are promised a "world-class school system" and "higher wages for workers". It's all just so much rah-rah feel-good bullshit that panders to what candidates think the voters want to hear. That's why it's so refreshing to have somebody like Mitch Daniels come along who tells it like it is and uses his brains to tackle tough problems without worrying about the potential political fallout. On the other hand JLT has lost more elections than she has won and the gorilla is totally devoid of any ideas other than that he wants to be governor. And they have the nerve to talk about failed leadership?

Anonymous said...

He attacked Gov. Daniels "my way or the highway" approach to governing (a phrase I used to describe Gov. Daniels in a Nuvo column last year.

That phrase was also used to describe Gov. Daniels by Jack Colwell of the South Bend Tribune nine months before your Nuvo editorial.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Jack Colwell is a good political writer, anon 6:51. And it was a column, not an editorial.