ZIONSVILLE, Ind. | Democrat John Gregg tore up Republican Mike Pence in the first Indiana gubernatorial debate Wednesday, blasting the six-term congressman for promoting policies that have cost jobs and for seeking to divide Hoosiers on social issues.
"You're talking about a road map to create jobs, yet your ideology has led to Indiana losing hundreds of thousands of jobs," Gregg said. "As a free trader, you have voted and decimated the steel industry."
Gregg warned Hoosiers that Pence "is no Mitch Daniels" and said Pence would pursue a social issues agenda focused on denying women access to health care if elected governor.
"That's all he's been about," Gregg said. "We in Indiana need to stay away from divisive issues — we can't even agree on class basketball and time zones."
Pence responded tepidly to Gregg's attacks, telling the former Indiana House speaker and former Vincennes University president, "You're not sounding very much like yourself these days."
Throughout the one-hour debate, Pence returned time and time again to the themes of his "Roadmap for Indiana," mentioning the "Roadmap" no fewer than 10 times and its proposals to reduce the state income tax, promote school choice and improve the state's business climate.
"I believe that Indiana is on the verge of an era of growth and opportunity, and if we produce a plan, which I have in my Roadmap for Indiana, I think we can take Indiana from good to great," Pence said.
Gregg also spoke of his plans to cut taxes and grow jobs, but spent more time touting his experience enacting a state budget, running a university, starting a business and leading two large companies.
"I've always been able to get people to work together," Gregg said. "When I was speaker of the House, every single bill that landed on the governor's desk had bipartisan support."
Standing at his podium between Pence and Gregg on stage at the Zionsville Performing Arts Center, Libertarian Rupert Boneham spoke eloquently of the need to reform Indiana's criminal sentencing policies, improve mental health services for children and eliminate high-stakes standardized testing in Indiana schools.
"Life is not a multiple choice; life is an essay," Boneham said. "We need to teach our children how to think and learn and comprehend."
All three candidates agreed that Indiana high schools should offer more vocational training programs.
It remains to be seen whether Gregg's attack strategy will result in the same bounce in the polls that Republican Mitt Romney has gotten after relentlessly pursing Democrat Barack Obama in the first presidential debate.
Either way, the three candidates for governor will meet at 6 p.m. region time Wednesday in South Bend for the second of their three debates.