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Plus: 5 races I'm watching on Election Day in Indiana
If you didn’t know any better, you might have thought Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was running for federal office.
There he was, campaigning on Saturday with a Democratic congressman from a state over 600 miles away, railing against the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol. It came at the back end of a campaign where Hogsett has been laser-focused on abortion rights in a red state that became the first to enact tighter restrictions in the wake of the fall of Roe v. Wade—even though there’s little the mayor can do on the matter. His opponent, Republican Jefferson Shreve, meanwhile, has assailed Hogsett on the war in Israel, questioning why the two-term mayor allowed a pro-Palestine group to protest at Indianapolis’ war memorials.
It’s not exactly potholes and police, the traditional staples of municipal campaigns. Yet it’s in keeping with an off-year election when state and local campaigns from coast to coast have been seemingly nationalized to an unprecedented degree. It’s as if one of the old dictums of politics — all politics is local — has been thrown out the window.
As he rallied the party faithful this weekend, accompanied by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chaired the Jan. 6 committee, Hogsett took issue with Shreve’s record of donating to election deniers — something he also hit Shreve on in an attack ad in recent weeks.
“Honoring the right to vote? My opponent has given contributions to support the role of election deniers,” Hogsett said to boos at Kountry Kitchen, a famous soul food restaurant that provided the backdrop for a get-out-the-vote rally. The mayor was referencing Shreve’s donations to Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, as well as Sen. Ron Johnson. (Shreve told POLITICO he condemns what happened on Jan. 6.)
5 THINGS I’M WATCHING TUESDAY
1. Terre Haute mayoral race: Former U.S. Army Ranger and 27-year-old Brandon Sakbun, the Democrat, has out-raised the four-term Republican incumbent Duke Bennett by a margin of nearly three-to-one, though Bennett has more cash on hand. If he wins, he would be the youngest candidate ever elected as mayor in the city’s history—two years younger than Pete Buttigieg when he won South Bend. Whether Sakbun wins or loses, he could be a new kind of diverse candidate for Democrats and has proven himself a capable fundraiser.
2. Evansville mayoral race: Whatever the outcome, tonight’s result will be historic: Evansville will get its first woman mayor. GOP candidate Natalie Rascher is running against Democratic candidate Stephanie Terry, who would also be the first Black mayor of Evansville, to succeed three-term Republican Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. Disaffected Republicans upset with Rascher’s defeat of Cheryl Musgrave in the May primary—not to mention Libertarian Michael Daugherty’s negative attacks against Rascher—could give Democrats their first mayor here since Jonathan Weinzapfel’s term ended twelve years ago in 2011.
3. Marion mayoral race: In this Rust Belt city where the last lynching occurred north of the Mason Dixon Line in 1930, a Black Republican could become mayor: Ronald Morrell Jr. A graduate of the Indiana GOP Diversity Series, Morrell is running against Democratic candidate Jess Alumbaugh. If he wins, he would not just be the city’s first Black mayor, but the first Black Republican mayor in Indiana history.
4. Carmel mayoral race: Can Democrats finally claim a mayoral win in this suburban Indianapolis locale where national Democrats like Ron Klain are hoping to see party gains here? Or will Republican Sue Finkam—far different in disposition and temperament than candidates who have lost Carmel recently like Secretary of State Diego Morales and former President Donald Trump—pull a Lucy and snatch the football away from Nelson?
5. Indianapolis mayoral race: Republican Jefferson Shreve is positioned to vastly improve upon Jim Merritt’s 2019 mayoral performance, which netted him just 26 percent of the vote. If he wins, Democrats will lose what is arguably their most prominent seat of power in the state. But public and private polls show Hogsett with a solid lead. Shreve’s campaign is betting on a different electorate than Hogsett has ever faced before, and so far, they’re getting aspect of it.