INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Democratic former Sen. Evan Bayh and Republican Rep. Todd Young criticized each other Tuesday in what has become an increasingly bitter campaign for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat.
The candidates clashed during what could be their only debate, with Young arguing that Bayh accomplished little during his time as a senator and renewing his assaults on Bayh’s work in Washington, D.C., since leaving the Senate six years ago.
“He’s all talk,” Young said. “He spent our money … stimulus, Obamacare, things that Hoosiers don’t want. That’s the record of a D.C. insider.”
Bayh didn’t use the debate stage to defend his post-Senate work, which has been the subject of millions of dollars in attack ads from outside GOP groups including a group tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the billionaire Koch brothers.
Bayh referred several times to popular programs he supported during his time as Indiana governor from 1989 to 1997. Bayh also countered that he was proud to work with Republican former Sen. Richard Lugar to support the 2008 auto bailout that rescued carmakers General Motors and Chrysler.
“Congressman Young said let ’em go belly up,” Bayh said. “We don’t do that to our fellow Hoosiers.”
The Indiana campaign has become a key national race as Democrats try to capture the seat now held by retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats and overturn the GOP’s narrow Senate majority.
Young frequently faulted Bayh for voting in favor of President Barack Obama’s health care law, arguing it has raised costs and hurt care in the state.
Young said Bayh abandoned Indiana residents after not seeking re-election in 2010, then collecting millions of dollars from various corporate jobs.
“Now, we can hold you accountable in this election,” Young said pointedly toward Bayh.
Bayh countered that he wants to fix parts of the health care overhaul and not allow insurance companies freedom to cancel policies as before the law was adopted.
Bayh also at least twice said that the Republican push to repeal the health care overhaul would threaten Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s Healthy Indiana Plan, which is Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid under the program. Bayh maintained that would put the insurance coverage for 350,000 Indiana residents at risk.
“This is something that Gov. Pence did that I agree with, that Congressman Young wants to undo,” Bayh said.
Unlike many other Senate campaigns around the country, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump didn’t come up as an issue in the Indiana debate, even though Pence is the GOP vice presidential running mate. Republicans presidential candidates have won Indiana in 11 of the last 12 elections.
Bayh, the Democrats’ prize Senate recruit, entered the race in July with a huge fundraising lead over Young and sky-high name ID from his time as a popular governor and senator.
But he’s been put on the defensive over his post-Senate work for a Washington law firm and private equity fund. Bayh earned nearly $6.3 million since the beginning of 2015, with about a third of the total coming from Apollo Global Management, a self-described alternative investment manager based in New York, according to financial disclosure records.