I post a fair amount about political hypocrisy: “family values” Evangelicals who love Trump, “fiscal conservatives” who are okay with his massive deficits, etc. But Tuesday’s local elections were a reminder that hypocrisy and cant aren’t just national phenomena.
Indiana was one of the states that held elections this year for municipal offices. In central Indiana, Democrats had some notable first-time victories, including the election of a mayor and at least three councilors in suburbs of Indianapolis that have been reliably red for as long as I can remember. (And I’m old.) But I want to focus on the more predictable results of the mayor’s race in Indianapolis proper—which, like all urban areas with populations of over 500,000 these days, is currently bright blue—where the incumbent, Joe Hogsett, won re-election by a nearly 50-point margin.
I didn’t attend Hogsett’s election-nght party, but friends who were there reported that the Mayor’s victory speech included some interesting (and appropriately snarky) comments.
In particular, after thanking his Republican opponent, Jim Merritt, a sitting State Senator, Hogsett “welcomed” his return to the Indiana Legislature, where, he said, Senator Merritt would have the opportunity to champion so many of the issues he raised during his mayoral campaign: additional resources for Indianapolis public safety and improved infrastructure, support for LGBTQ rights, and greater support for Marion County’s African American community – things that Senator Merritt has not exactly championed (or supported) during his 30 years in the legislature.
(To the extent we still have media watchdogs, I certainly hope they will keep a watchful eye on Senator Merritt’s efforts to legislate improvements on the issues he suddenly discovered were important during his mayoral campaign.)
Of course, Merritt isn’t the only candidate who should be held accountable. It will be equally interesting to see what Hogsett does with his impressive win, which can rightly be considered a mandate. He will also have an expanded majority—indeed, a 20-5 super-majority—on Indianapolis’ City-County Council.
How will he use this expanded authority?
One of my more cynical friends predicts that—based on the Mayor’s extremely timid approach to governing thus far—Hogsett will take his 71% victory as a “mandate to continue doing not much of anything.”
Maybe. But hope springs eternal….
Our city, like so many others, faces a number of critical issues. Those issues will demand focused, thoughtful initiatives from the Mayor’s office: improving inadequate and decaying infrastructure; working with the State DOT to avoid further exacerbating the 50-year-old mistake of running an interstate highway through downtown residential districts; continuing to revitalize in-city neighborhoods while avoiding the pitfalls of gentrification; supporting the extension of public transportation; the continuing effort to improve public safety; and so many more.
The Mayor now has an electoral mandate and a supermajority on the Council. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to spend that political capital.
I’m hoping for signs of bolder leadership and vision in his second term, and I’ve made a wager with my cynical friend, whose prediction is that Mayor Hogsett will “boldly middle-manage the status quo” in ways that keep Indianapolis a reasonably well-functioning but ultimately undistinguished city.
Time will tell.
Meanwhile, all eyes now turn to Washington and 2020.