Gubernatorial candidates spar over time zones, IVF and leadership styles

GOP gubernatorial candidates Eric Doden, left, Mike Braun, Suzanne Crouch and Brad Chambers participate in the debate organized by WXIN/WTTV in Indianapolis. (Credit: Brian Howey)

Mar 27, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Four of the six Republican gubernatorial candidates debated on Fox59/CBS4 Tuesday night, sparring over time zones, embryos and leadership styles while grading the man they want to succeed, Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The four candidates — U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden — will debate again on WISH-TV at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Former attorney general Curtis Hill didn’t qualify for Tuesday’s debate, instead hosting a telecom town hall 90 minutes before the debate.

Here are six takeaways from the Tuesday showdown:

1. What kind of leader would you be? The four candidates were asked about their leadership styles and whether they would be more like former Gov. Mitch Daniels or former Gov. Mike Pence. None of the candidates directly answered the question. 

Braun responded, “I’ve got a record. I ran as the outsider just six years ago.” 

Crouch: “I have the experience and the political courage to deliver results for Hoosiers.”

Chambers: “I don’t believe career politicians are necessarily leaders. That’s the way to lead; building great teams. You have to be a good listener.” 

Doden:  “My friends would describe me as highly relational and very driven to results. Leaders have the three Cs: Character, chemistry and competency.”

2. Grading Gov. Holcomb: The candidates were asked to “grade” fellow Republican Gov. Holcomb. Sen. Braun gave him a “B-“; Crouch gave her boss an “A” and a “C” saying, “With the economy that would be an A. With COVID, that would be a C.” Chambers gave his former boss an “A,” saying he tackled tough problems and made “real progress” on education. Doden gave no grade, saying, “We’re focused on the future.”

3. Chambers was asked to identify opponents feeding the public “stale soundbites and lousy results.” Chambers responded, “Sen. Braun has been down for three or four photo ops at the border and nothing’s changed. There was a bipartisan bill … a month ago. He was quoted in the paper saying, ‘We don’t want to vote on that because we don’t want to help [President] Biden. That is not serving Hoosiers. [Braun’s] now on his third position on qualified immunity. No one in Indiana can unsee the Tucker Carlson interview and in his own words talking about Black Lives Matter being a great institution.” 

Braun responded, “Everybody clearly knows when I made that reference that was to somebody exercising their First Amendment rights. That was never, ever to support an umbrella  group, BLM. Hoosiers know that. That’s been out there for four years. You can try that kind of retread, but when you’re doing that it’s because you’re in single digits” in the polls.

4. Should IVF be available to Hoosier families? This was a question on a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling on in vitro fertilization. 

Chambers: “As a pro-life candidate we have to protect lives, but we also have to promote life. I believe families in Indiana should have access to IVF.” 

Doden: “I’m ardently pro-life. I think it’s a human rights issue. I also believe we should protect IVF.” 

Braun: “If you believe in the sanctity of life you should treat living embryos with respect. I don’t know one Republican that wouldn’t be for” IVF. 

Crouch: “As a woman and as a mother I cannot imagine the pain and anguish that women and couples go through desperately wanting to bring a life into this world and they are unable to do so.”

5. Unified time zone in Indiana: The candidates were asked about whether the state should have a “unified” time zone and, if so, would it be Eastern or Central. 

Braun: “We actually happen to be positioned in the Central time zone [in his hometown of Jasper]. I hear more and more people would not like to change their clocks.”  

Braun says he favors the Central time zone. 

Crouch says she works in Indianapolis and lives in Evansville, “so I am constantly moving back from Central to Eastern time. People would prefer to stay on one time.” 

Chambers said he would be open to one time zone, preferring Central. 

Doden said people “are not interested in changing their clocks.” He did not state a time zone preference.

6. Hill had a telecom town hall late Tuesday afternoon, taking questions from listeners. Hill noted in his opening statement that he had 80,000 more votes than Donald Trump in 2016. He called for “proven conservative leadership,” noting that “it’s based on what they’ve done in the past. It’s imperative we elect people who say what they’ll do and do what they say.” 

Hill said of abortion: “It’s the only medical procedure that ends in the death of a human being” and predicted, “We still have a long battle ahead on the culture of life.” 

He called Lt. Gov. Crouch’s “axe the tax” plan to phase out the state income tax “a gimmick.” And he called former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ advocacy to ignore social issues tantamount to “waving the white flag. We got rolled.”

Brian A. Howey is senior writer and columnist for Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Find Howey on Facebook and X @hwypol.