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Both Democratic U.S. Senate candidates cite abortion rights as major impetus for their campaigns

Two screenshots from Zoom interviews with Valerie McCray and Marc Carmichael. McCray is a Black woman with black hair, wearing a blue jacket over a white top. Carmichael is a White man, balding with gray hair, wearing glasses and a navy blue jacket over a white and blue checkered shirt.
Zoom screenshots
Dr. Valerie McCray, left, and Marc Carmichael, right, are the Democratic candidates for Indiana's 2024 U.S. Senate race.

Both of Indiana’s Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate said they’re running to help restore abortion rights.

And Dr. Valerie McCray’s pitch to voters is that it’s important to have a woman out front in the campaign.

McCray, a clinical psychologist, first ran for Senate two years ago, but couldn’t get enough voter signatures to make it on the ballot. Learning from that experience, she cleared that bar this year.

McCray said access to affordable housing, the high price of health care and prescription drugs, and restrictions to reproductive rights are “pressing” people.

“I think that all of these are based on human rights that are being pushed back,” McCray said.

Former state lawmaker and longtime lobbyist Marc Carmichael said he’d stepped away from politics before he was galvanized into action by the U.S. Supreme Court revoking guaranteed abortion rights.

He said he would fight to restore the protections guaranteed under the previous Supreme Court precedent, Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t worry about whether it would win me voters,” Carmichael said. “I’m more interested in doing the right thing by my granddaughters.”

Carmichael also said he would model himself after U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) — focused, he said, on bipartisan solutions to problems facing Hoosiers.

And Carmichael said one of the most pressing issues he wants to address is gun violence.

“I would like to try and ban the sale of assault weapons, as a start, along with national background checks and red flag laws,” he said.

As national polls suggest economic issues, particularly inflation, are top of mind for voters, McCray laid the blame for that problem on corporate greed.

“They’re not suffering. They are growing and growing and growing in profits,” McCray said. “We have to address that; we have to tax that. Such that — hey, you’re getting this income, let’s throw it back into our structure.”

Carmichael said the only tool needed at this point to control inflation at a government level is through the Federal Reserve, not Congress.

“I don’t think that inflation is so bad that the government needs to try and step in with price caps or something like that,” Carmichael said.

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Both candidates cited housing as a critical issue they would seek to address in office.

McCray said a core challenge is getting hedge funds out of the housing market.

“It’s like this sort of greed. It’s like a video game — ‘let’s get this, this and this’ — and they’re eating up all of these homes,” McCray said. “It is absolutely ridiculous how it’s changing the fiber of the communities.”

Carmichael rejected calls to roll back regulations in the housing sector, arguing it will create long-term problems.

“All of the empty retail space that has been created since COVID … I think there needs to be some federal incentives to take these empty buildings and turn them into affordable housing,” he said.

Republicans are stressing immigration as a top issue in campaigns across the country this year.

McCray opposes actions by Texas to install barbed wire barriers at the border and said the U.S. needs to be more proactive about coordinating efforts with other countries to take care of refugees.

“Our grandfathers or our great-grandfathers came here under situations that were not necessarily the best,” McCray said. “So we have to not shut the door behind us and say tough luck.”

Carmichael said the recent Senate bill that died in part because former President Donald Trump urged Republicans to reject it was too draconian.

“We have to put the resources into the system so that there are entry points that can handle the crowds, so they don’t go around them,” Carmichael said. “We’ve got to have enough judges and courts to handle the asylum requests, which are legal.”

Aid to Ukraine and Israel is one of the biggest debates Congress is currently facing. Both McCray and Carmichael spoke to IPB News before Iran launched drones against Israel over the weekend.

McCray said U.S. foreign policy strategy isn’t consistent.

“I’m all for the argument of Ukraine — we don’t want another country coming over, taking over this country,” McCray said. “But we look the other way when it comes to what’s going on in Palestine.”

Carmichael said it’s important for the U.S. to help maintain democracies in Ukraine and Israel. But he also said what the Israeli government has done in Gaza is “indefensible.”

“Obviously, Hamas’s attack was subhuman and an atrocity,” Carmichael said. “But two atrocities don’t make a right.”

The winner of the Democratic primary will face U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) — who is unopposed in the Republican primary — and Libertarian Andrew Horning in this fall’s general election.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.