Editor’s note: Democrat Cinde Wirth is one of two candidates for Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District. A Where They Stand interview with her opponent, Republican incumbent Rep. Greg Pence, can be found here.
Two candidates are vying to be the U.S. Representative for Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District.
Incumbent Rep. Greg Pence, a Republican who is running for his third term in office, will face Democrat Cynthia “Cinde” Wirth in November’s general election. Indiana’s 6th Congressional District was recently redrawn following the 2020 Census, and will include the entirety of Johnson County this election. Previously, Johnson County was part of the 9th District, which is currently represented by Trey Hollingsworth.
Pence, of Columbus, has held the 6th District seat since he was first elected in 2018. Wirth, an educator and small business owner also from Columbus, previously ran to represent District 59 in the Indiana House of Representatives in the 2020 primary. She later ran for Indiana State Senate in District 44 in the general election that fall.
The Daily Journal met with Wirth to discuss the issues facing both District 6 and the nation, inflation and their priorities, if elected. The Q&A below includes answers by Wirth in her own words. It has been edited for length, grammar and formatting.
» What drew you to run for this office?
I was a classroom teacher at the high school level for 10 years, and from what I saw in my classroom, with students, I realized that we have a large issue with our population and supporting our population. We have parents working two and three jobs, trying to raise families and that’s the number one issue I think that people are facing today; that everything is a struggle and there’s essentially not much of a middle class left. I was selected for a fellowship in Washington, D.C. to learn to write policy through the (U.S.) Department of Energy. When I was in D.C. with that fellowship, I learned how … well-written policy, can change people’s lives for the better, including those of my former students and students today, and their families. That’s what really drove me to run for this office.
» What are the most pressing issues facing the country? How do they relate to the issues facing this district?
I think we are facing a choice of upholding democracy or not upholding democracy. I think there is no gray area in this election. At every level, we’re looking at people who are attempting to undermine the democratic process. We saw that on Jan. 6 with the insurrection. We’re seeing that in Indiana Senate Bill 1 (which banned most abortions). We saw the rejection of that in Kansas, with their laws similar to SB1 that they put on as a referendum, which we’re not able to do in Indiana. … We have a process for democracy that works as long as we all support it. When we undermine the democratic process, it removes people’s voice from decisions that are being made in Washington or at the Statehouse.
» What are your top three priorities and how will you execute those?
I think we need to work on codifying reproductive freedom, which would be upholding Roe v. Wade. That’s a priority because when we have those personal freedoms that start to erode, it just leads to more freedoms being removed.
Public education is one of my top priorities always, and supporting public education with public dollars is one of my main priorities. Being in the classroom and seeing how teachers have been deprofessionalized and are facing increased scrutiny from just the general public from people inflaming issues that are really non-issues. Public education is one of the biggest concerns I have to work on, and that can be done through federal means in accountability and testing, removing some of those barriers for teachers in the classroom; through eliminating some of the testing procedures and retooling the entire system.
The other thing is healthcare. We are still in the healthcare crisis. We’re better than we were (before, but) I think healthcare needs to be completely decoupled from employment. We have a system … (where) healthcare is based on your employment. We have some supplemental systems that go outside of that, but if we have an entire federal system that … attaches healthcare to the person and not to the employer or the job, then people can make decisions for their employment and their vocation not based on healthcare. Healthcare-based decisions for employment and vocation are the basis of many people making decisions about where they’re going to work and what they’re going to do. I’ve had to make that decision myself, so I understand that.
» Inflation is a big issue right now. How do you plan to help address it?
One of the things driving inflation is massive windfall profits from private companies, especially oil companies, and when you have windfall profits that are out that are not being taxed at the rate they probably should be, then the companies have no incentive to do anything different. … There’s different ways to measure inflation, according to jobs and prices, things like that, but what’s not ever looked at is profit, the relationship of profit to inflation, and that’s never been done even as far back as the 1800s. It was tried and the people trying to do it were sacked. They lost their jobs, so it’s never been tried again.
» There is a push right now moving towards greener and cleaner energy sources, what are your thoughts on it? Do you think the country is moving in the right direction?
Absolutely, we need to push for greener solutions. What we’re seeing Republicans do is blow around some hot air, if you will, that is trying to place blame of things just for partisan politicking. I think we are in a global climate crisis. We know we are; we’ve known for over 30 years that we are and we have had Republicans at the helm and control that have not made decisions that we should have and we’re paying for it now. We’re seeing increased storms, we’re seeing increased temperatures. We have to shut the carbon source off at the tap, and one of the ways to do that is to look at alternative energy sources. It’s not anything that’s new.
» What are your thoughts on President Biden’s student loan debt relief plans?
I think it goes far enough to give people relief. I think it’s not anything that is taking away something from people, it is giving relief. I view it as overwhelmingly positive and not any different than the relief that was given under the Paycheck Protection Program loans during the pandemic. Those loans were completely forgivable and there was no principal or interest paid back on any of those loans, whereas student loan debt, people have been paying for years and what we’re seeing go away is essentially mostly interest.
» Right now, people are becoming more and more concerned about the data tech companies are collecting. How do you feel about it and what should be done to address these privacy concerns?
I do think we need to protect data privacy. I think this is a position where we can look to government regulations to provide some structure for that, and some guidance. We have a lot of data that is out in the world of big data, and there are many people making profits from that. I think profiting at the expense of taxpayers and citizens and people is never a good idea. … There are a lot of cyber type of intelligence professionals, and I think there are a lot of beneficial pieces that we can put in place to protect consumers and protect everyday citizens.
» What are your thoughts on the U.S. aiding Ukraine? Are we too involved or not involved enough?
I think we have a responsibility to help uphold democracy where it exists, and where it is desired. I think we are supporting Ukraine and I do support that, and I think it should be done. People need assistance from external threats when their country is being invaded. I think when we remember that these are people who have lives and families, that’s important.
» How will you communicate with constituents?
I think there needs to be more interaction between representatives and their constituents on a regular basis. Regular town halls, regular small group roundtable meeting sessions with stakeholders of different issues — like farmers — open-door forums, not closed-door forums. I have a strong belief, and it’s kind of at the core of this, that a representative government represents people openly and doesn’t hide behind closed doors or big dollar donation events.
» What else would you like to say to voters?
My entire goal is to put people before partisan politics because, at the very core, people live in the 6th District. People have needs in the 6th District. … I think when a representative votes according only to partisan lines, it’s playing games with hardworking people’s lives. Playing games with people’s lives is shameful; when you vote against capping insulin prices at $35, that harms people. Those are the kinds of things that I will not do.
THE WIRTH FILE
Name: Cynthia (Cinde) Wirth
Family: Husband, Trent; two children
Educational background: bachelor’s University of Evansville; master’s from Indiana University; doctorate in progress at Ball State University
Political experience: Ran for state representative in District 59 in 2020 primary election; ran for District 44 in state senate in 2020 general election.
Memberships: U.S. Department of Energy, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow Alumni; Sustainable Furniture Council; International Association of Caribbean Archaeologists; Society of American Archaeologists; Registered Professional Archaeologists; Sunrise Rotary (temporarily inactive); Leadership Bartholomew County; Columbus Service League Sustainer; Columbus Comprehensive Plan Committee; Downtown Merchants Association; Columbus Lacrosse Club; Bartholomew County Historical Society; Historic Columbus Development; Friends of The Commons; Uncommon Cause Committee; Columbus City Park Improvement Committee; Downtown Columbus Parking Committee; Society of Educational Studies; Climate Reality Corps; Local 09000- American Federation of Teachers; Indianapolis Women Leaders