By Katelyn Goodpaster and Oliver Tompkins

It was an early Thursday night at New Castle High School. Some forty-odd members of the community were gathered around tables, snacking on donuts. There were middle schoolers, high schools, adults, the elderly, school and local government officials. But no one had just come for the donuts; they were there for the debate.

On February 22nd Katelyn Goodpaster, NGP Indiana State director, and Oliver Tompkins, a co-chapter leader, hosted a debate between two Democratic candidates for Indiana’s sixth district, Jeannine Lee Lake and Lane Siekman.

Lake runs a group in a nearby town known as Feed My Sheep, a pantry that helps those who struggle to make ends meet, as well as being the founding leader of Muncie Matters Alliance, a group with the mission to strengthen relationships between the public and the police. Lake says that her disappointment with the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was what inspired her to become a politician.

Siekman was also spurred into his second run for Indiana’s sixth district by the results of the 2016 election. Siekman serves as the Ohio County attorney, as well as being an outspoken member of the democratic party.

After an opening speech by Goodpaster and Tompkins, both opponents squared up for the first question; “What strategies should Congress support in attempts to battle the current opioid crisis?”

Lake said that the responsibility should be shared on a federal and state level and that the most important thing we still must do is really address that we have a problem. Siekman took the front that punishment was not the answer, but rather that we, as a society, should be focusing our time and tax dollars towards rehabilitation.

The second question addressed if the candidates were in support of the decriminalization of medical marijuana, and if so, to what extent. Lane was a large proponent of medical marijuana, so long as we could ensure those who were pregnant were not exposed to it, as she believed it could be detrimental to a developing fetus’s health. Siekman was for both the use of medicinal and recreational marijuana, but he said we should focus more medicinal uses and use that as a trial to see if recreational is even plausible. He did adamantly express that even if we did not allow for recreational, it should not remain as a schedule one drug.

The night turned to a more serious tone as the final question was addressed. After the Parkland shooting just a week prior, the candidates were asked about their opinions on gun regulation. Both Lane and Siekman agreed it was imperative that we create stricter gun regulations, as well as banning certain modifications, such as the bump stock. Neither liked the idea of teachers being armed and agreed that we should prevent dangerous people from getting guns in the first place, rather than preventing them getting into a school building.

From here the night turned into a public forum, with several members of the community asking the candidates their own questions, which ranged from food insecurity to abortion rights. 

The night overall was a success and served to educate voters as Indiana’s closed primaries loom ever closer. The New Castle NGP chapter plans to host another debate in the fall with the winners of the primaries.