FORT WAYNE — Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg wasted no time in trying to tie Republican Mike Pence to fellow Republican Richard Mourdock’s comments that a pregnancy resulting from rape is something that “God intended.”
Gregg opened Thursday night’s final gubernatorial debate by accusing Pence of trying to be “politically expedient” in distancing himself from the remarks. He also said his Republican foe runs on a “Pence-Mourdock ticket.”
“Yesterday congressman Pence tried to separate himself from his ticket mate Richard Mourdock, announced that he now supported abortion for the survivors of rape and incest,” Gregg said in his opening statement. “Well, that’s not what he told Indiana Right to Life earlier this year. Career politicians always change their position when it’s politically expedient.”
Pence urged Senate nominee Mourdock to apologize for his remarks and said he disagrees with his comments. But Gregg argued Pence and Mourdock share the same position on abortion and said Pence is waffling on the issue.
Mourdock’s comments in a Senate debate Tuesday have dominated the national political conversation since then and spurred some Republicans to distance themselves from him. Pence’s request for an apology was included in a $1.1 million ad buy from national Democrats attempting to keep Mourdock’s comment front and center in Indiana.
Pence, Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham met for the debate in Fort Wayne. Pence did not respond to Gregg’s accusations onstage Thursday, but was scheduled to talk with journalists after the debate.
Gregg made repeated attempts to tie Pence to Mourdock, but the questions quickly moved the debate beyond talk of Mourdock’s comments, requiring the candidates to weigh in on teaching creationism in schools, decriminalizing marijuana and reviewing the state’s contract to buy natural gas from a proposed power plant in Rockport.
When asked about creationism, Pence said he was in favor of giving more freedom to teachers in the classroom.
“Issues of curriculum should all be decided ultimately by parents and local schools, not dictated by Indianapolis,” Pence said, leaving the door open for possibly opposing the measure. State lawmakers are expected to debate the issue during the upcoming legislative session, giving whoever wins the governor’s race a hot-button issue to confront out the gate.
Only Boneham ruled out support for teaching creationism. Neither Pence nor Gregg gave a clear answer, although Gregg also said he was for giving more power to local schools.
“I think it’s been said the best ideas don’t come out of Indianapolis, and there’s a reason they are called local schools. In the last seven or eight years we’ve seen all of the reform come out of Indianapolis,” he said.