SOUTH BEND — Republican Jackie Walorski and Democrat Mel Hall stuck to familiar strategies during their second debate Tuesday night, but a broader set of viewer-supplied questions illuminated some stark policy differences between the two candidates.
Walorski, seeking her fourth term representing Indiana’s 2nd District, again hammered Hall, a political newcomer, over lingering questions about his residency in Washington, D.C. in recent years and his work for a law firm there that also lobbies Congress. Hall again repeatedly criticized her for not having held a town hall meeting with constituents for five years, for voting 11 times to repeal Obamacare and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and for taking campaign money from special interest groups and political action committees.
On the issues, the candidates distinguished themselves a bit more than in their first debate Oct. 8 at WSBT-TV, including:
President Donald Trump’s tariffs: Hall said he applauded Trump for “calling out” China, who he called a “bad actor,” over its dumping of cheap steel and aluminum in the United States, but he would have liked something “more strategic, a little less off the cuff, a little less trade negotiation by tweet.” Hall said Indiana farmers are suffering from retaliatory tariffs on their exports.
Walorski, who has disagreed with Trump on many of the tariffs because of how they’re hurting the recreational vehicle and boat manufacturers in the district, said she has been closely involved in the matters as a Ways and Means Committee member. She said she has been part of a group urging Trump to renegotiate with China and other nations that have imposed retaliatory tariffs.
Immigration: Walorski said she supports Trump’s call to build the Mexican border wall and somehow protecting the estimated 11 million people who illegally immigrated to the United States as children with their parents, and she said Democrats want to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Hall countered that he doesn’t support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or abolishing ICE, but he also doesn’t advocate building the wall.
“We can protect our borders and have humane and fair immigration policies,” he said. “I believe we can keep families together and ensure that … people don’t overstay their visas.”
Abortion: Walorski said she is “absolutely pro-life” and has won the endorsement of anti-abortion rights groups. Hall said “the government should not be involved in the decisions that a woman, or in many cases, a young girl, has to make” regarding whether to have an abortion.
Tax cuts and the deficit: Walorski, who voted for the Republican-led tax cuts, said they will create enough economic activity to lower the national debt in the long term. She said Democrats have trivialized the $1,200 to $1,500 income tax break given to the average middle-income American.
Hall said Walorski has done nothing during her six years in office to stop the national debt from “exploding.”
Gun control: Hall said he supports banning devices that turn a semi-automatic gun into an automatic weapon, such as bump stocks. Walorski said existing gun laws must be enforced, and unspecified safeguards must be taken to keep guns away from criminals and those “who need mental help.”
The debate might have been the final one between the candidates. They initially had agreed to three live televised debates, the first time Walorski had ever agreed to such a challenge from a Democratic opponent, but the campaigns reportedly have been unable to agree on a format for the third event. Walorski has proposed a third debate under the same format and rules as the first two — live, televised, in a studio with only the candidates and moderators present, but Hall has instead pushed for the third debate to occur before a live, in-person audience.