CANDIDATE Q&A: U.S. Congress District 9

The League of Women Voters of Brown County sent questionnaires to all candidates with opposition on the fall ballot in the following races: U.S. Congress District 9, State Senate District 44, State House District 65 (ran 9/28), Brown County Council at large (ran 10/5), Brown County Commissioner Districts 1 and 3 (ran 9/28), Brown County recorder (ran 9/28) and Brown County School Board (ran 10/5). The League of Women Voters of Brown County — a nonpartisan organization — chose the questions. Answers appear in the candidates’ own words, though some were trimmed to fit available space.

NOTE: 9th District candidates will debate in Brown County Thursday, Oct. 20. See the forum schedule here:

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Please describe the occupations, training and experience that qualify you for this office. What is the issue you would most like to pursue if elected?

Shelli Yoder (D): Since January 2013 I have served on the Monroe County Council, representing District 1, the eastern district bordering Brown County. I have expanded services for veterans, increased funding for youth, opened a new 911 dispatch center and kept our budgets balanced. I also serve on the South Central Community Action Program Energy Assistance and Head Start boards. I have led a number of nonprofit organizations where I worked with community leaders and health care providers to deliver care and vocational training to underserved populations. I will focus on bringing as well as keeping quality high-paying jobs to central and southern Indiana. Indiana has a great tradition as a manufacturing state; however we continue to lose jobs overseas and our communities are struggling to replace them. My priority will be strengthening infrastructure by investing in roads and bridges and expanding broadband access as well investing in our workforce, for those who are just entering it and those who need new training.

Russell Brooksbank (L): I am a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve. This experience left me with a sense of duty, a love of country and a real idea of what self-sacrifice means. I’m a Teamster. I have fought for the rights of my co-workers, written company policies and negotiated contracts; I’ve also been the mediator. As a former business owner, I understand how bureaucracy and regulations can keep businesses from thriving. I also understand the challenge of finding and retaining good employees. When you fix things for a living you tend to concentrate on finding the solutions to problems rather than on the problems themselves. The place I believe our government is most broken is our loss of liberty. Legislation like the Patriot Act, the indefinite detention clause of the NDAA, the incessant spying on our own people by the NSA and the assault on our First, Second and Fourth Amendment rights are all liberty-killing measures I want to fight.

Trey Hollingsworth (R): I’ve invested the last decade building nine businesses and creating hundreds of jobs in Indiana. I feel the ill effects our government has on job creators and those seeking employment each and every day. I look forward to bringing my private sector experience to Washington to help fix problems, just like we fix them in our businesses. That means having the discipline to cut spending, balance budgets and get real results for a better future.

In an uncertain and volatile world, what are three things the U.S. should do to protect the security of our people and homeland?

Yoder: Our servicemen and women are the best-trained and best-equipped force for good in the world. We must keep it that way, and when I get to Congress I promise that I will work every day to make sure that our military receives the funding and resources necessary to do its job as safely and effectively as possible. Immigration reform is vital to our national security interest. Working to find a solution to immigration that is respectful of the dignity of human life but also works to uphold the rule of law and protect our borders from those who wish us harm should be a top priority. We must address the issue of ever-increasing cyberattacks. These attacks have consequences for both our national security and economy. We must make data security a priority for both private companies and the government.

Brooksbank: I believe that the best thing we can do for the security of our people and our homeland would be to get out of the business of regime change. It creates massive blowback, which creates a security threat. Each time we remove one government a worse one fills the void. We need to leave them to fight their own wars and attack only after we are attacked. The second thing I would do is bring our troops home from these ungodly expensive bases. Japan and Germany can pay for their own defense. Let’s let our soldiers do what they were trained to do and protect the homeland. The third thing I would do is encourage everyone to become proficient in firearm safety and marksmanship. A well-armed populace creates a large militia able to be called to the defense of the homeland. It also helps to stop terrorist attacks and active-shooter scenarios like we experienced in Orlando.

Hollingsworth: The world needs strong American leadership. We have the technology and the capable military to keep the American way of life safe, but the Obama administration’s failed foreign policy has only increased the resolve of our adversaries. One need only turn a globe to see the trouble that weak leadership has caused: missiles in the South China Sea, chaos in Syria and a newly emboldened Russia. We need to listen to our generals. We need to secure the southern border so foreign terrorists can’t come over it. We need to take the fight to ISIS on their turf. We have the technology and ability to do this swiftly and smartly with a small military footprint, but we need our leaders to take a principled stance on what is right and what is wrong, and confront the evil that threatens us.

Are there flaws in our campaign finance laws? What are they and how would you address them?

Yoder: I understand that the enormous influence of super-wealthy individuals, big corporations and special interests leave families and hardworking individuals feeling increasingly powerless and apathetic. In short, the influence that money has on the political process is undermining our democracy and fueling a dangerous lack of engagement by significant percentages in our society. We must end the flood of secret, unaccountable money in our politics, and I will push for legislation to require outside groups to publicly disclose political spending. I would also support a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which allows Super PACs to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections. Overturning Citizens United is a critical step toward restoring the voice and empowering the influence of individual voters in our elections.

Brooksbank: The clamor over the Citizens United ruling is misplaced, in my opinion. Like it or not, the ability to donate money or collect money and use it to advertise for a candidate or measure you support is free speech. Is there too much money in politics? Absolutely. Limiting speech is not the solution to that problem, though. The problem isn’t PACs; it’s the amount of influence government has over our lives. That is the root cause of corruption. As long as there is influence to buy there will be people lining up outside your congressman’s door and around the block to buy it. Want to get money out of politics? Eliminate the influence government has over our lives. A government that concerns itself with securing our rights and protecting us from force and fraud has very little influence to peddle. My goal, as your congressman, is to reduce that influence as much as possible and, as a result, reduce corruption.

Hollingsworth: Business owners invest in projects in which they believe, individuals invest in nonprofits that they support, and we should have the same right to do just that for political campaigns and causes that represent our values. I cannot imagine a bigger or better cause to rally behind than the future of our country. I see our government currently going down a dangerous path, one where our spending and debt are getting out of control, our national security is growing weaker, and where people are starting to question if opportunities will exist for the next generation. Watching all of that, and the solutions politicians present (or fail to present) to our major problems, l knew that it was time to speak up and get involved. The status quo is no longer acceptable; we need real results from Washington.

Please address your views with regard to climate change, and the role of the federal government (and Congress) in environmental protection and mediation of damage.

Yoder: Climate change is a real threat to the safety and security of Hoosiers. I support efforts to work toward a fair global climate change agreement to reduce emissions, and am in favor of an “all of the above” approach to energy independence with an emphasis on renewable energy. As a “coal-burning” state, we need to make sure we have a transition period to other forms of energy and to be prudent in our approach. By investing in our energy future we can reduce utility costs, create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign countries for our energy needs.

Brooksbank: Climate change is a natural, cyclical occurrence that has nothing to do with mankind or the industrial revolution. The “global warming,” then “global cooling” and now “climate change” issue is nothing more than a control issue and has nothing to do with saving the environment. As a Libertarian, I believe we have the right to do whatever we wish, provided we don’t violate other people’s rights. If I am polluting my property, then the government should have no say in it, but the moment it leaves my property (either airborne, carried downstream, leaked into ground water or various other means) then the government has a role. The government should provide for courts where injunctions can be issued and damages recovered. The problem I have is when farmers are not allowed to farm their land because of a toad or an insect. I will defend the private property owner from their polluting neighbor and their overbearing government.

Hollingsworth: The importance of our environment cannot be understated; however, the approaches taken by this administration are inappropriate and misguided. The executive branch and faceless bureaucrats should not have the authority to rapidly impose costly rules on energy producers, businesses, farmers and families without the accountability of elected officials voting on the matters. The responsibility to legislate rests with Congress because they are the body that’s most accountable to the people. We will always achieve better results if we work with the American people, rather than allowing regulators to shutter businesses with little to no recourse. I own an Indiana business that has recycled over 1.5 billion pounds of aluminum over the last eight years. We should let the private sector continue to develop technology to cut environmental impact, not allow an overreaching federal government stop that process of innovation by putting companies out of business and people out of work.

Do you support goals of the Affordable Care Act? How would you change it or if you want to repeal it, what would you replace it with?

Yoder: While the ACA has been a solution to many problems plaguing the health care system, some changes must be made. I am in favor of eliminating the 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health plans, but my first priority will be to address what is going to be the replacement mechanism because I will not support tax increases for the middle class. Health care is an economic issue because as we lower health care costs, we lower the costs of hiring new workers. Instead of the government setting prices for health care commodities, Medicare should expand competitive bidding nationwide — and extend it to medical devices, laboratory tests and all other commodities. Health care consumers need to know how much something costs before treatment. Many state laws prevent non-physician providers such as advanced-practice nurses from practicing to the full extent of their training. Making greater use of these providers would expand the workforce supply, which would increase competition and lower prices.

Brooksbank: If the goals of the Affordable Care Act are to help people afford insurance so that their lives are not ruined by the heavy financial burden of seeking medical care in this country, or to make it easier for people to purchase insurance, then I support those goals 100 percent. However, it is not my opinion that those are the goals. I believe that the goal of the Affordable Care Act is to make private insurance more expensive and less available to the people who need insurance. I believe the goal is to move us toward a government-run health care system. This I vehemently oppose. I would repeal the ACA and replace it with commonsense reform. The best reform measure we could implement would be to allow insurance companies to sell insurance across state lines. The cure for high prices and bad service is more competition, not less.

Hollingsworth: We all want more affordable health care, and we all want policies that will protect us during challenging moments in our lives. Obamacare is not accomplishing either goal. Government isn’t the most efficient or effective provider of any service; companies should compete for American dollars, not Americans forced to give companies their dollars. We must repeal Obamacare because premiums continue to climb and coverage continues to narrow. The hiring of Hoosiers is held back because of mandates which smother business growth and job creation. Then, we need to encourage greater competition in the insurance market by freeing up insurers to provide products across state lines, as one example. We need greater freedom for patients by eliminating the coverage mandate, removing roadblocks to portability and allowing for different types of policies. American innovators will reduce the cost and improve patient care, but government needs to get out of the way.

Please suggest three concrete steps to grow the number of jobs that pay a living wage here in Indiana and in the country at large.

Yoder: When I get to Congress, I will make job creation and economic opportunity in Indiana’s 9th District my No. 1 priority. The fact remains that too many Hoosiers are struggling today. Our Hoosier economy will never reach its full potential until we level the playing field and start investing in working people again. That means investing in our small businesses and cutting the red tape and regulations so they can hire more workers; easing the tax burden on small business owners; and expanding access to capital for entrepreneurs. Building an innovation economy in central and southern Indiana will only happen if we invest in physical infrastructure improvements to our roads and bridges, which will bring good-paying construction jobs to our district and keep our families safe. Prioritizing digital infrastructure, including broadband Internet access, throughout all areas of our 13 counties and cultivating a 21st century global and technology-driven economy will make Indiana competitive and create opportunities.

Brooksbank: The first concrete thing I would do to help the economy grow jobs (government doesn’t create jobs, the marketplace does) is eliminate the corporate income tax. Besides, the corporations never paid the tax to begin with; they just passed it onto the end consumer. The second thing I would do would be to vote against any national “Right to Work” legislation. There is no such thing as a right to work. You have a right to be paid for work performed, but nobody has to hire you. Right to Work legislation is nothing more than union-busting legislation. The third thing I would do to help grow jobs is make it easier to open, own and operate a business in this country. I want to return to a time when people who had an idea, a vision and the drive to make it a reality were not opposed by their government. Freedom and free markets are the solution.

Hollingsworth: The best way to create good-paying jobs and rewarding careers is for businesses to start, grow and thrive. Unfortunately, we have a government that doesn’t understand that the seemingly small decisions they make have large, damaging impacts on businesses. I want to take my 11 years of job creation in Indiana to Congress so we get better pro-growth policies. Every hour and every dollar business owners spend navigating changing regulations, a complex tax code or Obamacare mandates takes away from the company and prospective new hires. After removing hurdles to job creation, we need to examine our education system. There are many good-paying careers, especially in Indiana where we value manufacturing, but it is increasingly difficult to find individuals with the right skill sets or even students that are aware of these opportunities. If workforce needs are better communicated and aligned with our schools, we can create more opportunities for Hoosiers.