by Caitlin Huston
The three 4th district congressional candidates are mostly standing by their respective party stances as they face the Nov. 6 election.
Republican incumbent Todd Rokita is running against newcomers Tara Nelson, a Democrat, and Benjamin Gehlhausen, a Libertarian, in the newly redrawn district.
The district redrawn based on 2010 census data now includes Cass County, which previously had been part of the 2nd district represented by Joe Donnelly. Donnelly, a Democrat, is now running for U.S. Senate.
Rokita, a former two-term secretary of state, succeeded Congressman Steve Buyer for the seat in January 2011.
Nelson is a single mother and Lafayette resident with a career in business. She currently works as a project manager. Gehlhausen is an eighth-year undergraduate student at Purdue University, where he’s majoring in professional flight technology and economics, with a minor in philosophy.
At a debate Monday night, Rokita and Nelson jumped on the issue of job creation, differing on the amount of regulations the government should put in place.
“The best thing we can do to promote job growth at the federal government level is stop regulating, stop over-taxing,” Rokita said.
Nelson said one of the keys to job growth is to offer companies incentives to keep jobs in the United States.
“I think we also need to regulate big companies so they don’t offshore people,” Nelson said.
On the issue of Obamacare, Rokita and Nelson stood by their respective party lines. Rokita said he had voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare and called the program “unaffordable.”
“Once government controls your health and the care of your health, they control your life,” said Rokita, adding that he believed healthcare costs would be more affordable under the voucher program proposed by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Guelhausen said he viewed Obamacare as a tax rather than a mandate.
“I believe it is another tax that we should not be subjected to,” Guelhausen said.
The debate reached a tense point when candidates were asked about their position on health care costs for preexisting conditions for women, Planned Parenthood funding and the “war on women.”
“I think women nowadays are sort of being treated as preexisting conditions.” Nelson said, adding that she would support continued funding of the organization.
Rokita said he was skeptical about the validity of the so-called “war on women,” saying instead that women were more affected by issues like the economy.
“Let’s get to the real issues here, let’s get to the economy and why it’s so bad,” Rokita said.
Guelhausen spoke in favor of keeping the costs of healthcare down for all citizens.
Nelson and Geulhausen appeared to have similar positions on immigration, with both speaking in favor of supporting immigrants’ rightful path to citizenship.
“I think that anybody who wants to live in this country deserves a fair and equal shot to live in this country,” Geulhausen said.
Rokita said he had supported immigrants on visas who are obtaining college degrees, but in an interview after the debate, he added that he believed undocumented immigrants should be punished for remaining in the country without citizenship or a visa.
“I support punishment for those under our current legal outline,” Rokita said.
In the same interview, Rokita said the biggest issue for 4th district voters was the national debt.
“No district or no locality can escape it,” he said. “It’s hindering our ability not only to run the federal government, but it’s hindering our ability to have an effective national defense and it’s easing out the private sector.”
Nelson listed the economy and Social Security.
“I feel the biggest issue in our district is No. 1 jobs,” Nelson said, adding that she believed believes the second largest issue was Social Security.
Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or email@example.com.