Indiana governor faces debate challenges over virus actions

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb prepares to host a virtual media briefing in the Governor's Office at the Statehouse to provide updates on COVID-19 and its impact on Indiana, Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb took on the conservative criticism over his coronavirus pandemic orders as he faced his two reelection challengers in a televised debate Tuesday night.

Posted: Oct 21, 2020 2:02 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb took on the conservative criticism over his coronavirus pandemic orders as he faced his two reelection challengers in a televised debate Tuesday night.

Holcomb, a Republican, also faced arguments from Democratic candidate Woody Myers that he’s been too passive in the state’s recent response as Indiana’s has seen steep increases in coronavirus-related deaths, infections and hospitalizations in the time since Holcomb last month lifted nearly all of coronavirus restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes.

Some conservatives around the state have argued Holcomb has exceeded his authority with a statewide mask mandate and executive orders forcing the closure of businesses deemed nonessential during the early weeks of the pandemic.

That has some longtime Republicans saying they’ll be voting for Libertarian Donald Rainwater, who said during the debate that Holcomb’s action exceeded the Constitution’s intent and infringed on individual liberty.

Holcomb said that his actions were needed during a public health emergency.

“Our individual liberty needs to be guarded,” Holcomb said. “When that liberty, or those actions, start to infringe on someone else that’s where we have to take a look at the public safety. It is just like a seatbelt, it’s just like wearing shoes in a restaurant, it’s just like fire codes — they’re meant for safety procedures.”

Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, criticized Holcomb for issuing a mask mandate that many people ignore since it doesn’t include any penalties for violators.

“If what we were doing was working, then we wouldn’t have record numbers,” Myers said. “Our positivity rate is going up and our hospitals are filling up.”

State health officials on Tuesday added 48 coronavirus-related deaths to Indiana’s toll, which has reached 4,008, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus infections, since the state’s first death was reported in mid-March. Indiana’s number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients are both up nearly 90% in the past month.

Rainwater, an information technology manager from Westfield, has said he would undo Holcomb’s executive orders and said Tuesday he would ask state lawmakers to limit the emergency powers that the governor has used for the past seven months while the Legislature has been out of session.

“I don’t believe the governor is a legislator,” Rainwater said. “The governor is supposed to execute the laws that are passed by the General Assembly.”

The hourlong debate occurred two weeks before Election Day with the three candidates and the moderator in separate areas of the WFYI-TV studio in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 precautions, according to organizers with the nonprofit Indiana Debate Commission. The candidates are scheduled to take part in another debate on Oct. 27.

Holcomb has a huge advertising and organization advantage as his reelection campaign has raised at least $12.5 million — more than 10 times what Myers has received in contributions or personal loans he’s made to his campaign.

Myers announced early in Tuesday’s debate that he would appoint current state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick to lead the state education department if he’s elected as governor.

McCormick was elected as a Republican in 2016 but has since broken with the party after numerous education policy disagreements with Holcomb and GOP lawmakers. The Legislature pushed through a Republican-backed bill last year to eliminate the school superintendent as an elected position and make it a gubernatorial appointment starting with the end of McCormick’s term in January.

Myers said he would be more aggressive than Holcomb and the Republican-dominated Legislature in acting to boost teacher pay.

“It is clear to me that unless we do that, we’re going to continue to lose teachers to Kentucky, to Illinois, to Ohio and from the profession all together,” Myers said.

Holcomb argued he’s protected public schools from funding cuts for this school year despite big drops in state tax revenue during the pandemic.

He maintained that Indiana’s economy is strong and bouncing back quickly, pointing to the state’s 3% unemployment rate before coronavirus shutdowns started in March and how it has dropped from a high of 17.5% to 6.2% for September.

“Being a low-cost-of-doing-business and low-cost-of-living state, plus pro-growth policies on the business side equal getting ahead,” Holcomb said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 306538

Reported Deaths: 5435
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41953849
Lake26872453
Allen17621295
Elkhart16905219
St. Joseph16524223
Hamilton12696167
Vanderburgh9552115
Tippecanoe844927
Porter813785
Johnson6231165
Vigo597979
Hendricks5944156
Monroe530349
Clark504077
Madison4858121
Delaware4820103
LaPorte457194
Kosciusko455739
Howard334975
Warrick319572
Floyd311477
Bartholomew308462
Wayne301367
Cass295831
Marshall293744
Grant262949
Noble249846
Hancock246551
Boone240254
Henry240237
Dubois234631
Dearborn215730
Jackson212633
Morgan204443
Gibson181725
Knox181419
Shelby178254
Clinton177821
Lawrence174047
DeKalb172829
Adams166422
Wabash158020
Miami157814
Daviess154643
Fayette147733
Steuben143513
Jasper142111
Harrison141824
LaGrange140129
Montgomery139027
Whitley133412
Ripley128114
Decatur124643
Huntington123510
Putnam123027
Randolph120719
Wells120428
White120321
Clay119822
Posey119616
Jefferson116216
Scott103219
Greene101353
Jay96413
Starke90621
Sullivan88916
Fulton83518
Jennings83214
Spencer8198
Perry81521
Fountain7738
Washington7417
Franklin68626
Carroll67913
Orange66628
Vermillion5993
Owen5987
Parke5606
Newton55312
Tipton55226
Rush5317
Blackford51912
Pike50318
Pulaski37710
Martin3515
Benton3362
Brown3353
Crawford2881
Union2671
Switzerland2555
Warren2382
Ohio2307
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371840

Reported Deaths: 6100
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin50231667
Cuyahoga36047741
Hamilton29931372
Montgomery20065228
Butler14769146
Lucas14317414
Summit13388316
Stark8792197
Warren819175
Mahoning7276299
Lake682666
Lorain643499
Clermont577248
Delaware556436
Licking549276
Fairfield538464
Trumbull5305147
Greene522364
Clark511464
Allen465485
Marion465251
Wood4491107
Medina447756
Miami425867
Pickaway399348
Columbiana347297
Portage344872
Tuscarawas328658
Wayne318793
Richland316638
Mercer289945
Hancock241337
Ross240759
Muskingum240210
Auglaize231031
Putnam224749
Erie224266
Darke223559
Ashtabula223253
Geauga203351
Scioto195915
Union19118
Shelby190615
Lawrence189438
Athens18864
Seneca180018
Belmont164929
Madison158918
Sandusky154229
Preble152621
Huron152318
Defiance139522
Holmes139139
Logan127816
Knox126318
Fulton124525
Washington121927
Crawford121516
Ottawa121130
Clinton106714
Williams10579
Ashland105222
Highland101317
Jefferson10124
Henry100023
Brown9925
Champaign9475
Jackson93112
Hardin91019
Fayette90317
Van Wert8976
Morrow8882
Guernsey83914
Coshocton82613
Perry78712
Adams78313
Pike7451
Gallia73513
Wyandot71216
Paulding64611
Hocking62616
Noble60223
Carroll45710
Meigs39012
Monroe31821
Morgan2575
Vinton2195
Harrison2023
Unassigned00
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