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Third District candidates share their views, incumbent declines

In addition to various statewide elections, Northeast Indiana voters have a congressional election coming up.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Banks is looking to fend off two opponents in the Nov. 8 general election.

Democrat Gary Snyder and independent Nathan Gotsch are both looking to unseat Banks, who was elected in 2016.

WBOI prepared a list of questions to ask all three candidates to see where they stand on local and national issues. Snyder and Gotsch sat down with us for one-on-one interviews. Those conversations can be heard below. Banks refused to participate in the series.

Gotsch said he is running both to give Northeast Indiana better representation than Banks and to “give frustrated voters a third choice.” He said he believes the three biggest issues Congress can help Northeast Indiana with are reducing inflation, preventing Congress from passing a nationwide abortion ban and finding a more efficient form of energy consumption.

Gotsch believes President Joe Biden “absolutely” won the 2020 presidential election saying “the 2020 presidential election was as free and fair as the 2016 election. So, if we’re not questioning the results of the 2016 election, we shouldn’t be questioning the results of the 2020 election.

He did not want to comment on whether or not he would vote to renew the January 6th Select Committee because he first wants to wait and see the report the committee releases. He also said that if Democrats don’t maintain control of the House of Representatives, that would be a “fantasy vote.” He did say that it is important to “get to the bottom of what happened.”

Gotsch acknowledged the traditional lack of faith in an independent candidate could be a detriment to his campaign.

However, he said he has spoken to enough Republicans “who say they just can’t vote for Jim Banks anymore,” who also do not want to vote for a Democrat that he feels “the desire for an independent candidate is out there”. People just need to “know I’m out there.”

Snyder is running to “defend Democracy and a woman’s right to choose.” He wants to make sure he integrity of the election process is strong and not allow Congress to pass a nationwide abortion ban.

Snyder believes President Biden “absolutely” won the 2020 election and that “it’s unfortunate Jim Banks does not believe that.” He says “if Jim Banks can’t accept the outcomes of elections then he doesn’t need to be in Congress.”

Snyder would “absolutely” vote to renew the January 6th Select Committee and referencing the amount of time it took for the 9/11 Commission to complete its investigation.

He said he wants to give the Committee more time to complete its investigation and pointed out a Jim Banks tweet, he said was sent out minutes after Donald Trump finished speaking and just before the attack on the Capitol. He said the tweet said “The Senators are getting their steps in.” Snyder said he hopes to find out what Banks knew.

He wants to push Congress to “speed up” its rollout of rural broadband. Snyder lives in “rural Huntington” and said that gives him perspective on why getting bandwidth to rural parts of Northeast Indiana is so important.

Below are the interview transcripts:

Nathan Gotsch, Independent

Gotsch extended interview

Tony Sandleben: We are here today with Independent Third District Congressional Candidate. Nathan Gotsch. Nathan, welcome.

Nathan Gotsch: Thanks so much for having me.

Tony Sandleben: We'll start with what would you say are the top three issues that Congress can help the people of Northeast Indiana with?

Nathan Gotsch: Well, look, I think the biggest one that I hear about when I'm out listening to voters is inflation. We all can see, as the price of gas has kind of jumped around, it was going down, and it's now back up over $4 a gallon. But it's not just gas, right. It's food prices, it's home prices. And something that I think a lot of people don't realize is, the farmers in this region are feeling this even more than the rest of us.

While we might be paying 10-15% more, which is certainly nothing to ignore, we have farmers who are paying three and four times what they paid last year for fertilizer. And part of that, significantly, is driven by the war in Ukraine right now.Ukraine provides fertilizer to a large portion of the world. Now, that's not as much in America, but when Ukraine can’t provide that to folks in the world, that drives prices up for American farmers as well.

And one of the things that was so disappointing to me is back earlier in the spring, after the Ukrainians had shown that they could push back and really fight that first advance from from the Russians, and that they had a chance to win this war, but they needed help from Americans and from people around the world, Congress voted on a very significant aid package so they could continue that fight so they could keep pushing back the Russians and win this war.

Every single member of Congress from Indiana, Republican or Democrat, voted for that bill, because they knew how important it was. Every single member of Congress except one, and that's ours, Jim Banks. And so when I talk to farmers, and they find out that Jim Banks did not do everything he could to end that war in Ukraine, I gotta tell you, I'm hearing from Republicans who say, I can't vote for that guy, he doesn't care about us. He has lost his way, he's gotten caught up in the bright lights of Washington, DC. So, that's one of the issues.

Another issue, obviously, is abortion. For me, what is so challenging is we have people at the Statehouse who are not doctors, who are not medical professionals, and who are writing these laws that do not have legitimate exceptions for rape and incest. A lot of people don't realize that it's only within the first 10 weeks. And if you have a young girl who is being raped by a family member, she may not even realize that she's pregnant, within that 10 week period. The exception for the health of the mother is also, in my mind, not a real exception.

These doctors have to literally write up a report before they can perform an abortion if they think that mother's life is in danger. And these doctors don't always have the time to do that. If you have a medical emergency, you don't have time to write a paper. So, I'm hearing from from voters, Republicans, Democrats, and certainly independents all across the district, regardless of how they feel about abortion, who are not okay with these new laws.

So, it's really important that members of Congress are able to be clear about where they feel the line should be drawn. So, I think that we have to make sure that women and doctors are the ones making those decisions, right. It's incredibly important, not just for women who find themselves in a situation with an unwanted pregnancy, but I have a family member who has incredibly difficult pregnancies to the point where her doctor said, ‘Look, if you get pregnant again, you could die.’ If their birth control fails, I don't want her doctor to have to wait for her to be potentially bleeding out to terminate that pregnancy. So, that's another issue that I think is incredibly, incredibly important.

The third one, that I would say. It's part of the inflation issue, but really the gas prices and ultimately, energy is something that we've seen our current reliance on fossil fuels, regardless of how you feel about the climate impacts and they're certainly significant. We are in a weaker position in America when we have to rely on foreign sources. is a fuel. What we need are people who are looking forward to not just renewable energy. We already have wind turbines in the district. If you travel south to Fort Wayne, you see these turbines and they are generating much cleaner, better energy, not just for the people of this district, but that energy can be transported.

The thing I think is so important that people understand, and I'm sure a lot of your listeners do, but it's not just about electricity as the energy source itself, but how do we transport that? If we're generating electricity and transporting it over electrical lines, that is much better for the people of this region and the climate. Then energy that we have to transport via trucks, tankers, trains, it takes energy to transport that energy. So, I think it's so important that we have people in Washington who understand that and who want to bring us into the 21st century, instead of trying to hold on to these, in many cases, 19th century models.

Tony Sandleben: A more simplistic question here for number two, how would the third district, us folks here in northeast Indiana, benefit from having you in the congressional seat?

Nathan Gotsch: Well, look, first of all, wouldn't it be nice not to have a congressman that won’t embarrass you on a weekly and sometimes daily basis? The fact that Jim Banks got suspended on Twitter for attacking someone who is different than him…that doesn't just reflect poorly on him, it reflects poorly on all of us. The truth is that the people of northeast Indiana, that's not who we are. This is an area where the values that I was taught growing up here: it was about being able to try to understand people who had different views than me, not demonizing them.

Over the last five, six, seven years, it just feels like our politics have gotten so contentious. And it's about trying to score points against the other side, than to build consensus and really work together to to solve the very real issues that we have I think the biggest thing that people would see immediately is just turning down the temperature and getting back to that sense of community, instead of fostering and fomenting the chaos that you see our current representative doing.

Tony Sandleben: A very straightforward question that we're asking every candidate: did Joe Biden win the 2020 Election?

Nathan Gotsch: Oh, absolutely. And I think that the thing that is so important for me in terms of when I talk to voters about this, the 2020 election was just as free and fair as the 2016 election. So, if we're not questioning the results of the 2016 election, there's no reason why we should question the results of the 2020 election.

Tony Sandleben: You talked about abortion a little bit earlier. Should Congress pass a nationwide abortion ban? And if not, how would you fight that?

Nathan Gotsch: Oh, no, I definitely don't think that Congress should, You're already seeing it at the State level where these bans not only are not working, but they're not even being put into place because the courts are stopping them. Right. So, to continue the court battle back and forth, and one judge says the ban can go ahead, and then the next judge says, No, we're going to have a stay on this. Frankly, it's just exhausting. The people who are in those positions of power right now, I think a lot of them, frankly, have been using abortion as an issue for their own political gain. It's like the dog who caught the car, and now they're going okay, well, how do we message this, and you're seeing lots of Republicans all across the country backing away from their stances on abortion, not just historically, but literally, we have people who are changing their websites from three, four months ago. ‘Oh, I don't really believe that. I don't totally agree with these things. I have a much different position today than I did three weeks ago.’

Voters can see through that. They understand that people's opinions don't don't change like that if they're truly held. I’m certainly against a national abortion ban. I think what we can focus on as legislators is to come together on common sense solutions that will lower the number of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies so that people are not faced with that very difficult decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy. I'm sure your listeners know this, but a lot of people don't in the state of Indiana. It is not required for schools to teach sex education. We also do not provide significant contraception options. So, we're going to ban abortion, but we're not going to teach kids about how they can stop getting pregnant. That is just incredibly ridiculous and certainly frustrating. So, for me, it's about taking abortion away from the hot button political issue and focusing on the the real source of the problem.

Tony Sandleben: Who should be held accountable for what happened on January 6?

Nahan Gotsch: I think anybody who has a level of responsibility should be held accountable. When you see images of people parading the Confederate flag inside the Capitol, not only is that wrong, but it just makes me sad for where we are, and where we've gotten. It is the sense that facts don't matter, and the thing about the January 6 committee that's been so instructive is to see people testifying under oath, who are Republicans who were appointed by Trump. When Donald Trump's own attorney general makes a statement about the election, and who was the winner of that, that, to me, is more powerful than any anonymous source talking about XYZ. So, I think it's so important for, for our country, to see these people, again, Trump-appointed Republicans who are under oath, under penalty of perjury, telling the story of what happened and what led us to that horrible day.

Tony Sandleben: Further along those lines, the clock is ticking on the January 6 committee, if they don't release the report by sunset of this current Congress, and you win the election, and you're now the third district Congressman, would you vote to renew the committee at the onset of the next Congress?

Nathan Gotsch: Well, look, let's be honest, that is only going to happen if the Democrats are still in the majority. If the Republicans win, then that vote is a fantasy vote. I think we have to see what they end up putting out before the end of this Congress. It seems like those people know what they're doing. So, I wouldn't want to comment on that before we see what it is, but I think it's so important that we get to the bottom of that, just like we have commissions on 9/11 and other really important events in American history, so that we can make sure that they're not repeated.

Tony Sandleben: Okay. Coming back locally, you said you've spoken to farmers about the war in Ukraine and things of that nature. They are in areas that struggle with internet access. How would you, as our Congressman, get better internet access to the rest of northeast Indiana?

Nathan Gotsch: Tony, it's a huge problem, and I was at a forum down in Winchester, which is the southern tip of this district that the Farm Bureau put on there. I was the only candidate to appear. That is the biggest, or one of the biggest issues. It's not just for the normal connectivity that those of us who live in less rural settings experience, but for them, it literally is a lifeline for having access to doctors if you can do a medical visit. One of my concerns right now is the rules that were suspended during COVID to allow for these virtual visits, those are going away, and it's impacting farmers and people who live in more spread out communities, more than the rest of us. You think about all the issues with mental health and being able to see a counselor, maybe you live in a small community that doesn't have a therapist. But if you can meet with them virtually, if you have good enough internet, that can be a literal lifeline. Suicide is a huge issue across northeast Indiana, but certainly, in our more rural communities. So, it's not just a matter of being able to get on Netflix, It literally is about people's physical and mental health. And also, there's a lot of farm equipment now, that is connected to the internet, or at least, can be made more efficient, if it has access to that. So, in the same way that we electrified America, in the smaller towns and communities in the last century, we have to be just as committed, to bring in rural broadband all across this district.

It takes representatives from areas like this, who understand that issue, who have talked to those people and who are going to push, push push to make that happen. The bipartisan infrastructure bill included monies for rural broadband. It didn't go far enough, but it certainly was a good start. You can guess how our congressman voted for that bill. He was against it. And again, that's another thing that I hear from people in the counties outside of Allen and even in some of the rural rural districts or the rural areas in Allen County. They know about that, and they see the benefits that that is bringing to people like them, and they don't understand why Congressman Banks voted against that, and neither do I.

Tony Sandleben: That's all the questions I had written. Is there anything else you'd want people to know?

Nathan Gotsch: So look, the biggest question people have for an independent candidate is can you actually win this election? And here's the truth. That's up to the voters of northeast Indiana. But I can tell you this: the second largest city in this district is Huntington. That's Dan Quayle's hometown. And it is incredibly Republican. They have an independent mayor who won his election against a Republican that actually was pushed by Jim Banks. This independent won by 10 points, okay. There was also a judge who beat a Republican incumbent down in Adams County in 2020.

So, it's been done here before, and in this year, in this cycle, when so many of us are fed up with people in both parties, to be quite honest, I think an independent has as good a chance as any, to do this. And again, like I said, earlier, I have people who have been strong supporters of Jim Banks in the past, who just will not support him, and they're excited to vote for me as the independent candidate. I also have people who have been Republicans their whole lives, and they say ‘Look, I just can't vote for a Democrat.’ I hear my dad's voice in my head saying, we don't vote for Democrats in this house. I said to one lady ‘could you talk to your dad? And she said, ‘Oh, he's been dead for 10 years.’ We have these political affiliations that are so strong, and it's on both sides. It's Republican and Democrat.

So, to be able to pull the lever for a member of the party that is not the one that you maybe grew up with is really difficult for people, but when we take party out of it, and it just becomes about where you stand on the issues, that creates a much different feeling going into the voting booth. How many of us are sick and tired of going to the ballot box and feeling like, well, I'm having to choose between the lesser of two evils? The truth is, if I needed to go get a new tube of toothpaste, we could choose from 15 different options at the drugstore, but for some reason, we have gotten into this mindset, where it just seems acceptable that we have two options in every election. In some cases, we have a candidate running unopposed.

So, I think it's so important for people to understand that, yes, I have a chance. We have internal data showing that there are so many voters in this district who would be likely to vote for an independent candidate if they just knew about me. That's why we are working hard, getting our yard signs out, getting our videos out. We're doing all different kinds of advertising in the next few weeks. We just need people to know that that's why you're seeing billboards with my name and in my face on it because people need to know that there is an independent candidate in the race, but when we're out canvassing and knocking on doors, I run into people who say, Hey, I saw your billboard, you've got my vote. Hey, I'm excited to vote for you. Hey, we're telling all our friends about you. There's grassroots support for this campaign, and I think it's not about me as much as people are just ready for an independent voice for something different.

They are desperate to send a message to Congressman Banks that the way that he looks at us, the way that he thinks about us, the way that he dismisses us is not acceptable. The people of northeast Indiana deserve a representative who cares about them.

Tony Sandleben: Alright. Independent congressional candidate Nathan Gosh, thank you so much for being here.

Nathan Gotsch: Thanks.

Gary Snyder, Democrat

Snyder extended interview

Tony Sandleben: “We're here with Democratic candidate for the third congressional district, Gary Snyder. Mr. Snyder, thanks for joining us.”

Gary Snyder: “Thanks for having me.”

Tony Sandleben: We have a set of questions here that we're asking each candidate in this third congressional district race. Simply, we feel these will be the best ways that voters can truly understand where you stand on issues and get to know you and things of that nature. So, we'll start very simply, how would northeast Indiana benefit from having you in the third district seat?

Gary Snyder: Well, they would benefit, first, by I live here. At the start of 2022, and the start of 2021, and the start of 2020, the start of 2019, start of 2018. I'm literally the only candidate in this race that has lived here at the start of every one of those years.

Next, I got into this race, because I could not think of anything more unAmerican than our current congressman just blindly following President Trump and trying to overturn the votes of 81 million Americans in the peaceful transfer of power. So, that's what originally got me in there. As we go through this race, my campaign slogan is pro choice, pro democracy. So, I will fight for democracy. Jim Banks will not. We've seen him try to overturn this.

Plus, something happened over the summer.Over half of Americans lost a constitutional right. I have six daughters, and a mother, a wife and a sister. They, and all the women out there right now, cannot truly live in a free country while Jim Banks is trying to make decisions about their bodies, health care, and future. Jim Banks right now believes all abortion is murder, and it should never be legal. There should be no exceptions, not for rape, not for incest, not for the life of the woman.

So, those are the three big issues that we're pushing right now. We're seeing global inflation hitting all over the US all over the world. We're doing a little bit better with it here in the United States simply because of the policies that President Biden has put forward, but think about this for one second and the hypocrisy in it. Jim Banks has been in Congress for six years. He makes $180,000 a year of taxpayer money. He lives in a million dollar house in Virginia, voted for tax cuts that put almost two and a half trillion dollars onto the national debt for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, but turns around and votes against an expanded child tax credit that put five to six hundred dollars a month in a working family of four’s pockets in the third district. He voted against veterans getting the health care and benefits they deserve when they serve next to these burn pits, and breathe in these toxic fumes that cause over 27 different types of cancers.

He voted against capping insulin at $35 a month. He voted against capping prescription drugs for seniors at $2,000 a year. He's out of touch. He's packed up and moved to Virginia and the third district is no longer a concern of his.

Tony Sandleben: I know it's dangerous to ask a politician a three-part question, but I'll go for it. What are the three biggest issues you feel are facing northeast Indiana?

Gary Snyder: Obviously, number one right now is the overturning of Roe, and I said this in my last answer. My six daughters, my wife, my sister, my mother, and the women all across the third district have lost a constitutional right. We need to get that back for them. We need to keep Jim Banks from making decisions about their bodies, their health care and their future. I say this all the time. I have six daughters, and I'll fight for their rights. Jim Banks has three daughters. If he won't fight for their rights, I will. Number two is our democracy. We have nothing if we don't have a democracy, and Jim Banks, as Adam Kinzinger said, the Republican congressman who sits on the January 6 committee, Jim Banks fomented the insurrection. He spread lies and disinformation leading up to the election. He voted against certifying the election.

He even tweeted out six minutes after Trump stopped talking on the lawn of the Capitol, ‘the senators are going to get their steps in today.’ What did he know? He also continues to spread these lies, and disinformation that caused the violence that day.

I think finally, the third thing, families are struggling, and Jim Banks doesn't seem to care. He'd rather make it a political issue, and pretend to whine and cry about high gas prices. Jim Banks has been in office for six years. Gas was $2.40 when he took office. it's over $4 now.Why? What has he done about it? Nothing.

He has no significant bills passed to help anyone in the third district, and people are struggling. The expanded child tax credit, the families out there listening to this interview, they remember getting that five to six hundred dollars. last year, for six months. Jim Banks voted against it, voted against renewing it, and that would go a long way. Right now, they're helping hardworking families put food on the table and gas in the tank.

Tony Sandleben: Based on what you've said before, I think I know your answer to this, but did Joe Biden win the 2020 election?

Gary Snyder: Joe Biden absolutely won the 2020 election. It's unfortunate that Jim Banks doesn't believe that. I saw a news article that almost everyone in America has an election denier on the ballot. We have one here in the third district, and it's unfortunate. If he can't accept the outcomes of elections, he doesn't need to be in Congress.

Tony Sandleben: Further along those lines, you mentioned Adam Kinzinger and the January 6th committee. The clock is ticking on them to get a report out since folks like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney won't be retaining their congressional seats. Let's say you win this election and will be part of the next Congress. Would you vote to renew the January 6 committee If they don't file a report?

Gary Snyder: Absolutely. When you take a look at the 9/11 Commission, it took a long time to get the answers to that, and I understand the January 6th committee wants to get answers out because important members like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney will not be on that committee after the start of the new Congress. So, it's imperative that not only Democrats keep the house to help families put food on the table, take care of veterans, help with taking care of crime, but also to get an in-depth look at what happened, what led up to and what's happened since January 6, 2021.

Tony Sandleben: Coming back more locally here. Northeast Indiana, outside of, obviously, somewhere like Fort Wayne, is very rural. In a lot of those rural communities, there's not a lot of bandwidth. How would you in Congress help get more internet access to folks in northeast Indiana?

Gary Snyder: As someone who struggles with that, I live in very rural Huntington. I have a state forest two miles down the road to my east and two miles down the road to my west.

Our internet is non-existent out there. Internet expansion was passed through the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure jobs bill. So, it's important that we speed that up.

I use this as an example. During COVID, my next door neighbor is a teacher. They have four children. When he would have to go teach school when the schools were shut down, He literally had to drive and do his lessons, teach his students in his car in the parking lot of the school, all the while his children were in the backseat doing their school. So, it's important that we speed up and do whatever it takes to get internet to everyone. It shouldn't be treated like a luxury, it's a necessity (and needs) to be treated like a utility.

Tony Sandleben: I know we're jumping all over the place, but we're going to go back to January 6, one more time. Who do you think should be held accountable for what happened on that day?

Gary Snyder: I think I'll wait to see the report, but just looking at it from a distance, obviously, Donald Trump riled the crowd up. I think there was a lot of communication with other groups. You had 140 something senators vote against certifying the election. You had Jim Banks tweeting out six minutes after Donald Trump was done before the first attacks on the Capitol happened tweeting out ‘the senators are going to get their steps in today.’ So, I think there needs to be a wide net cast. You look at the wife of the Supreme Court Justice, and the fake electors that she was fomenting across five states. So, I'll wait to see what the January 6th Committee says, but you can cast a pretty wide net just from looking afar from here in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Tony Sandleben: Then the last question. You've already answered it, but I'll go ahead and ask it anyway. Should Congress pass a nationwide abortion ban?

Gary Snyder: A nationwide abort, absolutely not, you know, in 1972, women finally got the right to, a constitutional right to have control over their own bodies, healthcare and future. When you take a look at what's happening across the country with some of these abortion bans, Indiana's

is very strict. It has very limited exceptions, and you almost have to jump through a lot of hoops to meet those exceptions. Jim Banks is on the record. He said this himself. Abortion is murder, when Roe passed, he called it a joyful day. He has proposed a national ban. He answered his North East Indiana Right to Life questionnaire. Abortions should never be legal, not for rape, not for incest, not for the life of the woman, never.

He's also embraced now, some of these laws like in Oklahoma, and Idaho, where a rapist’s family now can sue a woman who was impregnated during the rape, sue for awards up to $20,000 if this woman does not carry the pregnancy to term. So, it's important that we codify Roe, and we make sure that every single woman, my daughters, my mother, my sister, the women in your lives, have the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies, their health care, and their future, and let me add, Republicans like to go around and scream that if you ban guns, there will still be crime. Well, I'm here to tell you, if you ban abortions, there’s still going to be abortions.So, it's very hypocritical of them, and it's just a sad day that that a bunch of white men want to control the bodies, the healthcare and the future of women across this country.

Tony Sandleben: That's all the questions I had prepared. So I'll go ahead and give you the floor. Is there anything else you'd want to say?

Gary Snyder: No, it's been an honor to run here in the third district. Election Day is coming up. I think early voting starts today as we speak. We're excited. Women across this district have an opportunity, and we're seeing it everywhere we go, to make a statement that they are not going to be controlled by a bunch of people wanting to control their bodies, their health care in their future. The thing about it is you're not going to hear this from Jim Banks.

Jim Banks is not going to talk about abortion. He's not going to talk about Trump. He knows those are losing issues for him. So, as we go and get closer to November 8, pay attention to what candidates are really talking about, and of course, I ask for your vote on November 8.

Tony Sandleben: Alright, Democratic candidate for the third congressional district Gary Snyder, thank you so much for joining us today.

Gary Snyder: Thank you for having me.

Tony Sandleben joined the WBOI News team in September of 2022.