Where 5th District candidate Victoria Spartz stands on coronavirus, racism, other issues
The 5th Congressional District election to replace retiring Republican Congresswoman Susan Brooks is among the most-watched races in the country for Democrats, Republicans and political pundits alike, and is likely the Democrats' best shot of flipping a Congressional seat in Indiana.
Democrat Christina Hale, Republican Victoria Spartz and Libertarian Ken Tucker will face off in the Republican-leaning district that stretches from Marion County to the city of Marion and includes the Hamilton County suburbs.
IndyStar asked all three candidates where they stand on issues that matter to voters. Here's what Spartz said:
24,000, and counting:Hamilton County begins mailing out absentee ballots for Nov. 3 general election
The responses have been edited for clarity.
How would you attempt to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus?
Everyone should practice social distancing and wear a mask in public to protect seniors and people with health conditions leaving them vulnerable to COVID-19. Out of this pandemic, we have seen incredible innovation by the private sector. Private sector companies have been vital in creating and producing necessary items like testing and PPE. I would continue to reduce regulatory hurdles, so lifesaving technology, materials and medicines get to Americans efficiently.
How would you address the economic impact of coronavirus?
We need to get Hoosiers back to work. The policies that had our economy booming pre-pandemic are what we need to get back to, not more government, more regulation and higher taxes. Our economy thrives on having good job opportunities for all who are able to work. While some jobs may never return, we should provide workforce development training to help unemployed Americans redirect to new fields. We also need to continue helping small businesses get back on their feet as that is where the majority of job loss has occurred.
Racial inequality and race relations
Do you believe systemic racism exists and, if so, what steps should be taken to address it?
As an immigrant to this country, I understand that someone might feel uncomfortable and like an outsider, especially if you cannot speak the language. I am sure there are some individuals who might dislike people for being immigrants, speaking with an accent, being a woman or being Black or brown. I personally experienced people and members of the media making fun of my accent and trying to demean me as an immigrant or as a successful woman, but it’s not a systemic issue. In the long run, these people really hurt themselves, since the strength of our country is in the diversity of our opinions and our people. If we lose that diversity, we will get weaker. Our country would not have elected a Black president if we would have had systemic racism, and 5th District Republicans would not have nominated an immigrant woman with 40% of the vote in a 15-way race if they hated immigrants and women. I believe we need to treat everyone with dignity and respect. We need to focus more on what unites us than divides us, and working together we can have a society with equal opportunity for all and equal justice before the law.
How would you balance the need to ensure people can protest while protecting people and property from violence?
I am fully supportive of peaceful protest. As someone who grew up in a country that did not protect freedom of speech or assembly, I cherish these rights. There is a big difference between protesting peacefully and looting, destroying businesses, burning buildings and cars, rioting, and attacking law enforcement and innocent bystanders. People who commit these crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Should any funding for police be redirected to other social services?
Police funding is important to keep our communities safe. Fewer police will result in more crime and the victims will predominantly be those in lower income neighborhoods. I support making sure that police have funding for additional training and body cameras and that we make it easier for police departments to get rid of officers demonstrating a pattern of misconduct.
Should all K-12 schools be open for full-time, in-person learning despite coronavirus fears?
Every Hoosier has a different situation that needs to be considered in where they send their children during this pandemic. That decision should be made by parents. If the building has the ability to host a safe environment for students, then that should be an option. If parents prefer to keep their children at home for learning, they should have that opportunity. I think this is especially important to lower and middle incomes families that shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and making sure their children receive an education.
Would you do anything to address college affordability and student debt?
As a mother and educator, I understand that knowledge is an ultimate equalizer and quality education for our children has always been my top priority. Our post-secondary education has a lot of work to do. Above all, we need to align the cost of education with the earning potential of a career in that field and provide more workforce development opportunities. That’s the best way to address the student debt crisis and ensure students get a degree they can use. Finally, we need to ensure worthy students can go to college and their potential in life isn’t limited by where they started out.
Do you support increasing the national minimum wage?
Price and wage controls by the government are generally not very helpful in the long run. They create a lot of perverse incentives to get rid of employees or move them to a part-time basis. That’s what got us in trouble with our health care, when we started these controls during WWII. The best way to increase wages is for us to reform health care and make it more affordable, since health care costs are a major factor in suppressing wage growth.
Would you rescind any of President Trump’s 2017 tax changes, or increase taxes for those who are wealthier?
I think the 2017 tax changes were a step in the right direction and helped unleash an economic boom prior to the pandemic. The average family in Indiana’s 5th District saved $1,400. Like any complex piece of legislation, there are problems and things I would change. There are still too many giveaways to special interests, but that is a problem of Democrats and Republicans lining up at the trough to reward their preferred special interests. We can address the bill’s defects without raising taxes on middle-class families struggling to deal with the pandemic and its negative economic impact. Every time politicians talk about taxing the so called “wealthy,” they really mean the middle class. We need to do a better job to strengthen our middle class, entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Were Trump’s tariffs an effective tool against China and other countries?
I believe in free trade and think tariffs should be used as a last resort. That said, China had a long history breaking promises, cheating on trade and stealing American intellectual property. Unfortunately, President Trump did not have too many tools in his toolbox to deal with “bad” players, since Congress spent most of its time trying to get rid of him and not working on policies and solutions. I think President Trump was right to confront China when they were economically weak and the United States was economically strong and his efforts have moved trade with China in a better direction for American workers. He also renegotiated a better NAFTA agreement for our country.
What, if anything, would you do to lower health care costs?
We have to increase transparency and competition (this market is controlled by large monopolies and government now), allow more consumer choice and more innovative value-based, not volume-based, health care delivery models. We passed some great legislation in Indiana last legislative session benefiting the consumer, but we still have a lot of work to do and most of it has to be done at the federal level. I am pleased that we passed legislation in Indiana to require insurers protect Hoosiers with pre-existing conditions.
Do you support a Medicare for All system, a public health insurance option or the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid?
A government monopoly in healthcare will be fatal to innovation and quality of health care. Health Reimbursements Accounts are great options to provide more power and flexibility to Americans when paying for their medical expenditures. There should be health care plans and options available to small business and association employees. We need to fix our individual health care market to have affordable insurance plans for entrepreneurs and (people who are) self-employed. Government will still need to be involved with high-risk pools to provide affordable and quality options for people with pre-existing conditions. We should also provide more flexibility within Medicaid and Medicare to obtain better options. Particularly, we must fix our long-term care and nursing homes. I actually started some reforms on this issue at the statehouse.
What would you change when it comes to the United States’ immigration policy?
As someone who has personally gone through our immigration system, I know firsthand that we need to make changes. The process takes too long and is too expensive and bureaucratic for those seeking the American dream. If we want to curb illegal immigration, we need to address our legal immigration process and have a more robust work visa program. The bureaucracy in the process takes unnecessary time and bogs down the entire system. We also need to make sure that we do not reward people who skip the line. It simply is not fair to those immigrants who aspire to be Americans and follow the rules.
Would you continue construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall?
I support securing our border. Illegal immigration results in drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrible violence on the border. It also puts children in awful, dangerous situations. It’s a humanitarian crisis and it’s because our borders are not secure. Securing our border can be accomplished many ways, one obviously being a physical wall where necessary. As (American economist) Milton Friedman said, you cannot have an open border and welfare state.
Abortion, gun control and climate change
In what cases, if any, should abortions be permitted?
I support exceptions to protect the life of the mother. As a mother of two beautiful girls, I stand to protect every life. I grew up in a country where life had very little value. In our country, every individual life has value and is worthy of protection.
Which gun control policies, if any, would you support?
Instead of trying to take guns away from law abiding citizens, we need to enforce the gun laws we already have on the books and prosecute the criminals. Too many gun crimes go unprosecuted. I am committed to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and children.
Is climate change a primarily man-made problem and if so, should anything be done to stop it?
We always should promote policies and innovation to have clean water, air and healthy food for our citizens. We all want a clean planet and a healthy environment for our children. There is real debate among scientists about how much climate change is natural and how much is man-made, but we need to approach the issue in a common sense way that recognizes we can balance protecting the environment and not destroying jobs and opportunity for lower and middle income Americans.
For more information
Spartz and Hale will participate in a town hall at 7 p.m. on Sept. 22, broadcasted on WFYI and at www.indianatownhalls.org.
Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.