Senate, house candidates speak on hate crimes laws at Carmel forum hosted by League of Women Voters

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Six Indiana Senate and House of Representatives candidates spoke at a League of Women Voters candidate forum Oct. 3 at Carmel City Hall.

The candidates were Republican Mike Delph for Senate District 29; Democrat J.D. Ford for Senate District 29; Democrat Naomi Bechtold for House District 24; Republican Donna Schaibley for House District 24; Libertarian Donald Rainwater for House District 24; and Democrat Mark Hinton for House District 29. Republican Jerry Torr, also running for House District 29, was not present.

The candidates were asked several questions throughout the forum. One of the most heated topics was hate crimes legislation.  Bechtold said it was embarrassing Indiana is one of five states without a hate crimes law.

“If we want to continue to be able to have companies want to come to Indiana, to bring your young millennials in and work for our great state, we need to make sure everyone is treated equally under the law,” she said. “I am completely for the passing of hate crimes legislation.”

Delph was interrupted by an angry audience member claiming he didn’t see Delph at the community gathering at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, which was spray-painted with a Nazi flag and iron crosses. Delph said he was in the front row during the service on July 30.

“Currently, the way it works in the state of Indiana, is judges and courts across the state of Indiana have the discretion to add a sentencing enhancement for a hate crime,” Delph said. “That is currently being practiced in Indiana.”

Ford said that although he did see Delph at the community gathering, that afterward he said Delph verbally attacked a reporter asking about a hate crimes law.

“Senator Delph, you have been actively, for years, taking down hate crime legislation, so you cannot sit here and say that you are for it,” Ford said. “We need a hate crimes bill passed in the General Assembly in 2019. Two-thirds of Hoosiers in the last General Assembly session support passing a hate crimes bill, and we need to be able to close this chapter.”

Rainwater offered his take on the question.

“If you want to paint a swastika on your garage door so we all know you are a jerk, I think all bigots should do that so we know who they are and we don’t have to be anywhere near them,” he said. “But if you go and you paint a swastika on someone else’s property, then you should be found guilty of intimidation and any other law that we can create that specifically deals with the fact that you have tried to do something to intimidate and damage somebody emotionally and psychology.”

Schaibley said she is working on hate crimes legislation with State Rep. Tony Cook.

“I am hopeful we will be able to get it passed,” she said. “I live about a mile from the synagogue that was defaced, and that troubled me deeply.”

Hinton said he also is in favor of passing a hate crimes law.

“We need to send an unmistakable message to the rest of the country that we do not tolerate it, and the second reason is to let victims know they will get justice,” he said.

Several other topics were discussed, including the opioid crisis, teen suicide, voter turn-out and more. For a full video of the forum, visit the League of Women Voters Hamilton County Indiana Facebook page.

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