ZIONSVILLE, Ind. - Republican Mike Pence defended his attendance record and attacked his Democratic rival for governor, John Gregg during the first gubernatorial debate Wednesday night.
Pence said he had a 95 percent attendance record in the U.S. House to rebut Gregg's attacks that he's missed more than 80 percent of votes.
Pence also said the state ran deficits of tens of millions of dollars during five of the six years that Gregg was speaker of the Indiana House.
Pence made numerous references to his "Road Map for Indiana" and told viewers to log onto it to see his campaign positions.
"The next governor of Indiana needs to make job creation job one, and to do that, we've laid out in our Road Map for Indiana, which is available at Road Map for Indiana.com right now…" Pence said.
But Pence at one time appeared to need a road map himself, when he mistakenly said Zionsville is in Hamilton County when making a reference to a local youth program.
Gregg challenged Pence in strong words when he attacked him for his failure to support the rescue of Chrysler and GM and for Pence's free trade stance, which Gregg says has cost Indiana jobs.
"You didn't support the auto industry," Gregg said to Pence. "Two American companies, Chrysler and General Motors. There were 125,000 jobs at stake in the state of Indiana when it came time to loan money to the automobile industry. As a free trader, you have voted and decimated the steel industry."
Pence defended the action of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and the legislature in enacting a Right To Work law, but Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham defended unions, with Boneham pledging to reverse the new law.
"Remembering when we passed this Right To Work law in '58, and we repealed it in '64, I would stand up and repeal the Right To Work law," Boneham said.
Boneham also promised to end ISTEP, while Gregg promised to end what he called the war on education. Pence promised to help students with college affordability by promoting programs to help them graduate in four years.
Both Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham said the state should plan for the health care changes that are sure to come, but Pence still wants them repealed.
Political experts were divided along party lines when it came time to decide who'd performed best in the debate.
"I think it's clear there was only one person on stage tonight who looked like a governor, and that was John Gregg," said RTV6 Political Insider Kip Tew, a Democrat. "He was master of that stage. Mike Pence looked like he didn't want to be there. I was very surprised by his demeanor. He was stretching out each answer as long and slow as he could so he could say as little as he could."
"Tonight (Gregg) had mostly negative things to say," said RTV6 Political Insider Robert Vane, a Republican. "He talked very little about specifics about what he wanted to do as governor. He just talked a lot about why he didn't want Mike Pence to be governor. That's not what Hoosiers are looking for. But when you're way behind, you have to throw some long balls and unfortunately, none of them got caught."
There are two debates left in the governor's race. Next Wednesday, the candidates will meet in South Bend at 7 p.m. They'll hold their third and final debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 in Fort Wayne.