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: 926604

Reported Deaths: 15083
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1262201958
Lake626901087
Allen52772747
Hamilton43283445
St. Joseph41475584
Elkhart33129488
Vanderburgh29927439
Tippecanoe26589247
Johnson23267415
Hendricks21902340
Porter21473341
Clark17150224
Madison17065379
Vigo15815273
Monroe14298190
LaPorte14108237
Delaware13771219
Howard13635262
Kosciusko11232134
Hancock10637160
Warrick10523176
Bartholomew10341167
Floyd10200202
Wayne9690218
Grant8939196
Morgan8734158
Boone8299109
Dubois7596123
Henry7469128
Dearborn745187
Noble7294101
Marshall7237128
Cass7097117
Lawrence6862150
Shelby6457107
Jackson643981
Gibson6036106
Harrison595585
Huntington591891
Montgomery5706102
DeKalb563591
Knox537599
Miami531983
Clinton527164
Putnam525367
Whitley516251
Steuben486367
Wabash477492
Jasper471961
Jefferson461991
Ripley444175
Adams439365
Daviess4064106
Scott394963
White386257
Clay382356
Greene380189
Wells379683
Decatur379595
Fayette367176
Posey354941
Jennings346356
Washington325847
LaGrange315774
Spencer313034
Fountain309753
Randolph305487
Sullivan299447
Owen279161
Starke272761
Orange272659
Fulton268851
Jay250634
Perry247451
Carroll241127
Franklin233637
Vermillion229750
Rush228930
Parke215220
Tipton206754
Pike202538
Blackford165634
Pulaski158751
Crawford142818
Newton140742
Benton139816
Brown132646
Martin126916
Switzerland123510
Warren113416
Union93511
Ohio77211
Unassigned0468

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1342777

Reported Deaths: 21471
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1502191556
Cuyahoga1327732318
Hamilton962791318
Montgomery659161136
Summit555141045
Lucas50248862
Butler46732653
Stark40741974
Lorain31004529
Warren29609328
Mahoning26462637
Clermont25206287
Lake24339416
Delaware22014143
Licking20180241
Fairfield20139221
Greene19955268
Trumbull19500508
Medina19478286
Clark17565325
Richland15949231
Portage15851228
Wood15438208
Allen13875256
Miami13549249
Muskingum12261149
Wayne11647237
Columbiana11344239
Tuscarawas10657265
Marion10509148
Pickaway10301128
Scioto10082126
Erie9618171
Ross9209174
Lawrence8516116
Hancock8298141
Ashtabula8180185
Geauga8066155
Belmont7966184
Jefferson7324168
Huron7253127
Union717849
Washington7037119
Athens681064
Sandusky6734133
Darke6559136
Knox6475121
Seneca6237137
Ashland5808112
Auglaize580488
Shelby5654101
Mercer552190
Brown551068
Defiance5361100
Madison535170
Crawford5299114
Highland527581
Fulton520082
Clinton515980
Logan503182
Preble4902110
Putnam4778106
Guernsey454661
Williams448281
Champaign436264
Perry432152
Ottawa431184
Jackson413260
Pike378941
Morrow369150
Fayette367652
Coshocton359466
Hardin350069
Adams348069
Gallia338054
Holmes3197108
Henry318868
Van Wert307170
Hocking291669
Wyandot276158
Carroll256752
Paulding236442
Meigs205242
Monroe185049
Noble164840
Morgan159228
Harrison151940
Vinton133918
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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