INDIANAPOLIS — When U.S. Sen. Todd Young debated Democrat nominee Thomas McDermott Jr. and Libertarian James Sceniak for their only joint appearance, Russia continued to lose in its ill-fated invasion of Ukraine.
It was faltering so badly on the battlefield that the despot Vladimir Putin unleashed a terror campaign against Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, using Iranian kamikaze drones to blow up utilities, parks and apartment buildings filled with people.
Within hours, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that if Republicans take control of the House, the U.S. might pull out. “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” McCarthy said. “They just won’t do it.”
In May, 57 House Republicans voted “no” on a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, including U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Columbia City. In the Senate, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun was one of 11 Republicans to vote no, saying, “I support helping Ukraine expel the Russian invasion, but as inflation, gas prices, and shortages wallop Americans here at home I can’t support $40 billion of new spending unless it’s offset with cuts.”                        
Former vice president Mike Pence, speaking to the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, quickly took issue. “As Russia continues its unconscionable war of aggression to Ukraine, I believe that conservatives must make it clear that Putin must stop and Putin will pay,” Pence said. “There can be no room in the conservative movement for apologists to Putin.”
Young and McDermott were firmly in the Pence camp during Sunday’s debate. “I stand arm-in-arm with the Biden administration in their efforts to resource our brave Ukrainian fighters,” Young said. “We need to stand up for the basic principles of self-government and sovereignty.”
McDermott, a former U.S. Navy submariner, agreed when he called Russia a “mortal enemy,” adding, “Russia is pointing nuclear weapons at us. Russia is pointing nuclear weapons at Ukraine. And they’re threatening to use those weapons. We need to do everything we can to supply arms to Ukraine.”
As for whether massive voter fraud in 2020 “rigged the presidential election,” the candidates were asked who actually won.
McDermott, who believes the election was fairly conducted, cited the “two faces of Todd Young,” one on Jan. 6 when he was dressed in a camouflage jacket outside his Washington office building saying he supported President Trump, “and then we went in and voted for Joe Biden as president of the United States.
The McDermott campaign tweeted a photo of Sen. Young holding a high-powered rifle along with Wells County Commissioner Mike Vanover, who has been identified as a member of the Oath Keepers. “I think it’s a problem when our elected officials are out there with Oath Keepers,” said McDermott.                                                                          
Young said of the election, “I acknowledge the day the election became official that Joe Biden won the presidency. I think the record is pretty clear on that one.”
There were other contrasts between Sen. Young and Mayor McDermott.
On abortion, Mayor McDermott said that Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade “threw women into turmoil,” adding, “I support the limitations on abortion that existed under Roe v. Wade.”
“I don’t think it’s right that Hoosier women are treated like second-class citizens. Sen. Young told us in 2016 he was 100% against abortion with no exceptions, and he followed through by confirming three anti-choice U.S. Supreme Court justices,” McDermott said.
Young called abortion “a state issue,” explaining, “The people of Indiana and 49 other states are in the process, consistent with our values and our ideas, of trying to get this right. I don’t think anyone pretends that we’ve gotten it right. I do accept exceptions, and I’ll accept whatever the people of Indiana decide.”
On the potential repeal of the Obergefell ruling that paved the way for same sex marriage, Sen. Young called it “settled law.” But many considered Roe “settled law.”
“If presented with this issue, my first thought is why does big government regulate marriage altogether?” Young asked. “They certainly don’t regulate baptisms and other religious sacraments. But my second is, I’ll listen to Hoosiers and allow them to weigh in.”
McDermott said, “I will vote to codify Obergebell as well as Roe v. Wade.” He also took issue with Young, saying, “I think it’s abysmal you have a U.S. senator that can’t say yes or no on whether he supports same-sex marriages.”
On cannabis reform, McDermott said he supports legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana, noting that at Illinois and Michigan dispensaries parking lots, “75% have Indiana license plates.”
“This is an ancient policy we still enforce in Indiana. Illinois made more money taxing cannabis last year than it did taxing alcohol,” McDermott said.
McDermott also took a shot at Gov. Eric Holcomb, who will not follow President Biden’s lead and pardon those Hoosiers convicted on federal possession charges. “That’s two-faced. That’s the Hoosier Two-Step, and I’ll tell you what, I think our U.S. senator should take the lead on this issue so we can stop arresting Hoosiers and putting them in jail for having a plant in their pocket,” McDermott said.
Young said that cannabis reform “wouldn’t be my top priority.” He added that he “certainly will consider” removing any federal barriers to state actions on marijuana.