WESTVILLE — Two of three candidates running for a U.S. Senate seat each blamed the other Monday of playing to party politics in their views on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who voted last weekend against the confirmation, accused Republican challenger Mike Braun of essentially serving as a mouthpiece for President Donald Trump's nomination of Kavanaugh.
"Mike was for Judge Kavanaugh on the first day," Donnelly said. "If President Trump put up Bugs Bunny, Mike would have said he should go on the court."
Donnelly said he had supported 77 percent of Trump's judicial picks.
Braun said he believed Kavanaugh was qualified to serve the post and blamed Donnelly for following Democrat party politics in opposing the nomination.
"It is a blood sport and as long as it is like that you're going to have decisions made not on what Hoosiers want (but) based upon what Chuck Schumer wants," Braun said.
Libertarian Lucy Brenton agreed that politics surrounding Kavanaugh's controversial confirmation divided the country.
"The division is not over civil rights or any good issue. It's really over who gets to control this country," said Brenton, who also said she opposed the confirmation.
"He is a co-author of The Patriot Act. He is no friend of the Fourth or Fifth Amendment. I would have been 'no' from day one," she said.
The three sparred Monday during a one-hour debate at Purdue University Northwest hosted by the non-partisan Indiana Debate Commission and moderated by Anne Ryder, former anchor at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis.
The debate came just two days after Saturday's 50-48 Senate vote to confirm Kavanaugh as the next U.S. Supreme Court associate justice. Kavanaugh's ceremonial swearing in at the White House also came at the same hour as Monday's Senate debate in northwestern Indiana.
Kavanaugh's nomination became a bitter political battle when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made accusations that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school in Bethesda, Md.
The trio also tackled health care, gun safety, relations with North Korea and climate change.
Brenton blamed Washington for allowing corporations to control climate policy. She reiterated her support of hemp as an Indiana commodity.
Braun called himself a "steward of the environment," citing his early involvement in starting an ecology club at his high school.
But Donnelly charged, "You can't trust Mike to fight for Lake Michigan. You can't trust Mike to fight for our rivers."
Apparently hitting a nerve with Braun, the Republican addressed TV ads alleging he provided company workers with health insurance that eliminated pre-existing condition coverage.
"I would never be for not covering pre-existing conditions ... I've done it in my own business. The senator gave us Obamacare, which has no choices and has been falling apart," Braun said.