Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thompson Goes For The Throat In Debate With Schellinger

Democrats just have to hate it when their two leading candidates for governor attack each other instead of Gov. Mitch Daniels. On that score, Jill Long Thompson wasn't pulling any punches in her debate with Jim Schellinger last night. As the Star's Mary Beth Schneider writes:

While answering a question about making gasoline more affordable, Long Thompson criticized Schellinger's architectural work.

Schellinger has criticized her proposal to cap the sales tax on gasoline as "too costly." That, she said, is "disconcerting because he has lobbied for increasing property taxes in Indiana by over $500 million to support public projects that he would like his architecture firm to design."

Schellinger responded that it was disappointing, but not unexpected, that Long Thompson had distorted the truth about his "small, respectful business."

"This is where I'm supposed to come back at my opponent. This is where I'm supposed to point out her voting record and specifics that have hurt Hoosiers, but I'm not going to go there," he said.

Indiana already has a governor who has "polarized the state" and needs a governor who will bring people together, he said to applause in the Rhinehart Music Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where the debate was held.

Schellinger doesn't have a good response to Thompson's attack because it is essentially true. Schellinger made matters much worse for himself when he stepped into the fray the last week of the legislative session and urged lawmakers to adjourn without addressing property tax reform in any meaningful way. In the post-debate commentary, Schellinger further worsened his own problems by drawing attention to an ethics controversy which has gotten little media attention outside of Fort Wayne. Schneider writes:

After the debate, Schellinger told reporters that Long Thompson had been "absolutely" questioning his ethics. Among her criticisms was his campaign's use of a limited liability corporation, Trident Air, to pay for travel. He and his business partners formed Trident just before he announced his candidacy, and as an LLC, its funding does not show up on his campaign finance reports.

Long Thompson told reporters she's "not accusing him of anything," just urging that the source of the travel funds be made public. And she suggested he was being disingenuous in his claim that he's staying positive, noting that his campaign had recently tried unfairly to tie her to the U.S. House banking scandal of the 1990s.

I didn't watch the debate so I can't offer an opinion on how the two candidates performed during the live debate; however, if the initial news reports are any indication, it appears Thompson got the best of Schellinger. Star political columnist Matt Tully gives the line of the night to Thompson. He writes, "Talking about the governor's decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road to pay for road projects, she said, "That's like selling a farm to pay for a combine." I don't agree with her analogy, but it is an effective way to communicate her point.

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