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Stark differences emerged when The Herald Bulletin Editorial Board conducted Zoom interviews recently with Republican Victoria Spartz and Democrat Christina Hale, the two major party candidates for the Indiana’s 5th District seat in Congress.

Spartz, the first-term state senator, gave rambling, evasive, dogmatic answers. She dismissed QAnon, a widespread radical conspiracy theory, as something “online” that didn’t matter. And she seemed to have little knowledge about President Trump’s border wall, saying she was “not an expert” on border security.

In contrast, Hale, the former two-term state representative, provided thoughtful, well-informed responses to a range of questions.

The 5th District race was earmarked for big investment by both national parties. Campaign finance reports through Oct. 14 showed that nearly $3.2 million had been spent on the Hale campaign and more than $2.2 million had been spent on Spartz’s campaign.

A large chunk of the money from both sides has been used for TV attack ads. When Spartz and Hale were asked about the ugly ads, their answers were especially revealing.

Spartz accused the Hale campaign of starting the mudslinging.

Rather than pointing the finger at her opponent, Hale talked about the need for campaign finance reform, explaining that she did not approve ads attacking Spartz that were paid for with “dark money” from a political action committee. The campaign ads she had approved, Hale explained, touted her attributes instead of attacking her opponent.

While the factors above pushed the editorial board toward an endorsement of Hale, the clincher was her answer to a question about how she would work across the aisle with Republicans in Congress.

Hale cited several bills in the Statehouse on which she had collaborated with GOP counterparts. She noted that, if elected to the U.S. House, she would likely be part of a Democratic majority. Hale vowed that she would remember what it was like to be in the minority party and would work with Republicans.

The 5th District seat is open because four-term incumbent Susan Brooks is retiring. Brooks represented Indiana well in Congress, often teaming with Democrats to create and pass bills.

Hale is similar to Brooks in her bipartisan spirit, levelheadedness and commitment to serving the broad range of constituents in her district.

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