Meet the 2 Carmel Democrats vying for 5th Congressional District seat 


Two Carmel residents, tech entrepreneur Ryan Pfenninger and veteran and community volunteer Deborah Pickett, are running in the May 7 Democratic primary for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. The seat is held by Victoria Spartz, who is facing eight opponents in the Republican primary

The candidates answered the following questions from Current: 

Why do you want to run for this office? 

Pfenninger: I believe it’s time for a new approach in politics. The system is broken and nobody in Washington actually wants to fix it. We can do better. As a tech entrepreneur, I know good ideas aren’t partisan, and we can solve big problems and deliver real solutions by working together.

Pickett: I am deeply concerned by the attacks on our democracy and personal rights by those who swore an oath to protect them. Americans believe in fairness and justice. I want to make sure that these sacred principles are protected for Hoosiers and championed in Congress on their behalf.

What sets you apart from your opponent?

Pfenninger: I come at this from a different perspective. I’m a tech entrepreneur, not a career politician, and my first priority is making our government work for all Hoosiers.

Pickett: The advantages that I bring to my role as Congresswoman are my military service with the U.S. Army Reserve; my experience and knowledge from working on trade and economic studies at Hudson Institute; and my decades as a community activist advocating for children, the elderly and my neighbors.

What top three issues is your campaign focused on? 

Pfenninger: I will spend the coming months listening to constituents to ensure their priorities are part of my campaign. Issues I’m already hearing about include strengthening our economy by attracting the high-paying jobs of tomorrow, protecting Hoosiers’ reproductive and individual rights and ensuring our government operates efficiently and delivers for all.

Pickett: My campaign is about protecting our democracy and making sure that fairness and justice prevail; fighting for our personal rights and liberties; and working toward a federal government that delivers efficient and effective services and honors its obligations to Hoosiers and Americans with responsible financial stewardship.

What can or should Congress do to address inflation?

Pfenninger: Our country spends more than we make, driving inflation higher and increasing costs for gas, groceries and other expenses. We need high-paying jobs and a workforce that’s trained for tomorrow’s economy, and our government must operate efficiently and within its means. When we make promises to Hoosiers, we must keep them.

Pickett: Congress should reduce tariffs on imported goods for American consumers and manufacturers, streamline programs to reduce redundancies across government agencies, eliminate bureaucratic and legal hurdles for businesses and support trade and military alliances that promote stability, peace and prosperity. Global conflicts are very costly.

What changes – if any – would you like to see regarding border security? 

Pfenninger: Our immigration system is broken. We need a bipartisan, comprehensive solution that stops ignoring the problem. Our borders must be safe and secure, keeping out drugs and weapons while recognizing those who come here legally (and) pay taxes and play by the rules are a vital part of the American experiment.

Pickett: U.S. border policy should be compassionate to people fleeing poverty and violence but also respect U.S. national security interests and immigration laws. We need more judges and resources, and immigration reform should account for labor shortages and the contributions made by those who have lived and worked here for decades.

How much additional financial support should the U.S. provide to Ukraine and Israel in their ongoing conflicts?

Pfenninger: We should support our allies. Ukraine needs financial support to win the war against Russia; it should come both from the United States and their European allies. Israel has the right to exist without fear of terrorism. We should continue to stand with them while urging protection for civilians.

Pickett: Ukraine and Israel are both fighting brutal and destabilizing forces and money allocated for these commitments is small compared to the overall U.S. military budget. However, Ukraine and Israel aid should be dealt with separately and different terms offered given their objectives and military strategies and tactics.

What can Congress do to help bring down health care costs in Indiana and nationally?

Pfenninger: One word: Competition. We need to allow insurance companies to compete across state lines and ensure large hospitals aren’t swallowing up private practices, which reduces competition. We also need a national system that includes low-cost healthcare while still allowing individuals to purchase private insurance if they choose.

Pickett: Congress should simplify and streamline the patchwork of healthcare programs and take steps toward universal coverage for a basic set of medical services with an option to buy supplemental coverage. Additionally, Congress should create a health care budget that caps the amount that government can spend on medical care.

We live in an increasingly polarized and politically divided state and nation. How will you work to lead and better all Hoosiers – regardless of whether they support you or not? 

Pfenninger: Good ideas aren’t red or blue. Everyone in the 5th District deserves to be represented in Congress regardless of party. Our needs are not being met by current leadership or partisan bickering in Washington. I will be laser focused on solving the problems facing our nation – not just getting re-elected. 

Pickett: I will listen to my fellow Hoosiers’ concerns and ideas about how to make their lives better and how government can best help them help themselves and their families. My desire is to help Hoosiers build stronger families, resilient communities and prosperous futures as their U.S. representative.

What do you most want voters to know about you?

Pfenninger: I want them to know where I’m coming from: In the tech world, when something is broken, we don’t sit around and point fingers. We jump in, find the bugs and fix them. Together we can rise to the occasion and solve big problems. That’s why I’m running for Congress.

Pickett: I admire my fellow Hoosiers’ independent spirit and wonderful hospitality and am grateful to dear friends who have treated us like family. We live in a great country. We all need to stand up and stand strong for our democratic republic. Do not give up your rights. Vote for democracy.