Candidates discuss issues during forum


There were only two issues Tuesday evening that Indiana House District 69 candidates agreed on: Medical marijuana and industrial hemp.

Other than those, there seemed to be plenty of distance between Republican incumbent Jim Lucas and Democratic challenger Steve Schoettmer’s views on a variety of other issues discussed during a forum in Seymour High School’s Earl D. Prout Auditorium.

As far as cannabis is concerned, the candidates support its use for medical purposes and think it can help with pain and the opioid crisis.

Lucas of Seymour is a small business owner and is seeking a fourth term as a representative in the Nov. 6 general election. Schoettmer of Elizabethtown is a political newcomer and a retired U.S. Postal Service worker and union representative.

The forum was organized by Jackson County Indivisible and Friends, the local chapter of a grassroots progressive organization, and about 70 people showed up to hear the candidates speak.

Each candidate shared views on five topics, including public education and society, government and voting rights, health care, the opioid epidemic and addiction and wages and poverty.

The crowd interjected with several cheers and applause for each candidate at various points.

The only negative reaction came when Lucas suggested having children out of wedlock contributes to poverty during a discussion about wages and poverty.

“The best way out of poverty is to be responsible for yourself, get an education and don’t put yourself in the position. Don’t have children until you’re married,” he said as the crowd was divided between clapping and booing. “I’m not being judgmental.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2016 that 39.8 percent of children were born out of wedlock, which represents the lowest level since 2007.

Among other things, Lucas said the best way to fight poverty is through hard work and increasing skills.

“The best way out of poverty is a job,” he said.

Lucas also said many employers, including his business, pay above minimum wage.

“I pay a high school kid $10 an hour to take trash out,” he said. “I don’t know where there’s a place that pays minimum wage.”

Schoettmer said helping people out of poverty would solve nearly all of the issues discussed during the forum. He said the Republican-controlled legislature has had a “devastating effect on wages” due to the Right to Work law and the repeal of the common construction wage.

“They’re only looking out for their constituency, and their constituency is these guys,” he said, indicating the party implemented policies that benefit high earners.

When it came to voting rights and voter fraud, both shared different views on that subject, too.

“The only voter fraud that’s going on is in the Secretary of State’s office,” Schoettmer said.

He was referring to voters’ registrations expiring due to lack of participation.

He signed up a lady to vote by mail, and the clerk’s office said she wasn’t registered because she didn’t participate in last two election cycles.

Schoettmer proposed the state adopt a law that allows all voters to vote by mail and to be automatically registered to vote when they get their driver’s license.

Lucas said voter fraud is a problem that is occurring right now, though cases of voter fraud are rare. A Seymour man, however, faces a Level 6 felony charge for ineligible voting and has a trial scheduled in February.

He pointed to a Jennings County man’s conviction on 46 counts of voter fraud for casting absentee ballots for the military. The activity took place when Lucas ran for District 66 in 2010 before redistricting made it District 69.

Lucas said punishment for voter fraud should be severe and include one year in prison for each offense.

As for access to voting, Lucas said with so many options to vote, there is little excuse not to.

“You have early voting, voting by mail and voting on Election Day,” he said. “There isn’t a candidate I know — Republican or Democrat — that’s not busting their tail trying to get people to vote.”

Candidates also discussed education. Lucas, who sits on the legislature’s education committee, said the state spends a significant amount of its budget on education and receives more funding from the federal government without seeing results.

“We have some of the best teachers in the nation, but their hands are tied behind their back,” he said, adding the government puts too much pressure on standardized testing. “The bureaucrats need to get out of the way and let the teachers teach.”

Schoettmer said the state does not do enough to fund public education and is behind on funding compared to other states. He also shared concerns about the size of classrooms.

“I talked to teacher in Seymour with 40 students in class,” he said. “That’s too many.”

Both candidates thanked each other for discussing the issues following the forum.

“My opponent is a good guy and he’s likable, but the nice thing is the voters of District 69 have a crystal clear difference in candidates,” Lucas said, adding he liked the range of topics. “They’re important to everyone, not just in District 69, but across the state and country.”

Schoettmer agreed.

“I thought the five questions they chose were fantastic,” he said. “I think it went well.”

Bob Courtney, a Lucas supporter, drove from Madison to attend the event. Parts of Jefferson County are included in the district. He said he thinks Lucas has done a great job and deserves another term.

“I think Jim stands for smaller government and self-reliance,” he said. “I think he promotes public policy that are winning issues for constituents.”

Alma Wiley lives on the Jennings-Bartholomew county line near Jackson County.

She’s is a Democrat who likes to “vote for the person.”

“I enjoyed it a lot, and I applaud both candidates with some of the things they had to say, but I’m more in line with what Steve had to say,” she said, adding she was concerned with the lopsided power the Republican Party has in Indiana government. “I think we need more balance in Indiana.”

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State District 69 candidates

Jim Lucas


Home: Seymour

Education: Seymour High School, U.S. Marine Corps

Occupation: Owner of The Awning Guy

Family: Wife, Lynn; children, Suzanne, Jack and Madeline; two grandchildren

Steve Schoettmer

Age: 63

Home: Elizabethtown

Education: Columbus North High School

Occupation: Retired from U.S. Postal Service and American Postal Workers Union president

Family: Children, Patrick, Stephanie, Matthew and Eli; eight grandchildren


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