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Zay, Snyder make final pitch to voters

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

A heated campaign between fellow Huntington natives Sen. Andy Zay and Gary Snyder will soon be over, but not before both men make their way through Indiana’s 17th District with their final pitch to voters.

For Zay, the campaign has been about his record in office. Zay was appointed two years ago when former state senator and Congressman-elect Jim Banks resigned. A conservative Republican and small business owner, Zay has frequently voted with his party. His top legislative interests have been education, foster care and opioid policy, particularly the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

But Snyder’s message has also largely been about Zay, particularly his apparent beliefs about racism, affirmative action and the government’s role in both. A private Facebook conversation from 2015 resurfaced this summer, screenshots of which show Zay once wrote that racism is not real and that affirmative action is discriminatory against white men.

“I think when you have used racially inflammatory rhetoric like he mentioned in that message … that is something that is a deeply-held belief,” Snyder explained. “And he hasn’t apologized. He’s doubled down on it.”

Zay has tried to clarify those remarks, stating that while he believes racism is real he sees it as an interpersonal matter, not one for the government to solve.

Zay’s team has avoided engaging Synder’s accusations directly.

“My message throughout the campaign has been straight forward and honest,” Zay said in a statement Friday. “I am proud that I have run a positive campaign based on merit by sticking to the issues; like fighting the opioid crisis, child welfare, increasing investment in education and improving workforce development.”

The two candidates don’t agree on much.

Snyder says he left the Republican Party after losing his job in the financial crisis. While he still holds some traditionally conservative beliefs about gun rights and abortion, his views on tax policy and the social safety net changed once he found himself in need of government support.

“I realized at that point that the financial (crisis) was caused by policies that I had pushed: Trickle down economics,” he said. Snyder now supports policies like raising the minimum wage and the legalization of marijuana.

But Zay, who owns a car rental company in Huntington, believes Indiana’s economy is already on the right track, and he wants to see the state’s schools move in the same direction.

Zay has generally supported policies associated with school choice and education reform. And he hopes the state’s new pathways program will help alleviate the problems with ISTEP while improving workforce training.

Snyder, meanwhile, has described the state’s voucher system as harmful to public education, particularly rural schools.