With the support of the Republican Action Committee, Richard G. Lugar won to become mayor and Republicans took control of the City Council, beginning a long period of dominance of the Republican Party in Indianapolis. In the May Republican primary, the 35-year-old  Lugar, a former school board member, former vice president of Community Action Against Poverty (CAAP), and executive at Thomas I. Green & Co., defeated former mayor Alex M. Clark (1952-1956).

Lugar’s win over Clark was attributed primarily to support from the Republican Action Committee, a group of young Republican partisans who had organized following the party’s defeat in the 1964 election in order to wrest control of the party from the regular Republican leadership. On the Democratic side, 61-year-old incumbent John J. Barton defeated county chairman James W. Beatty, whose challenge of an incumbent mayor was viewed by most as payback for Barton’s attempt to unseat Beatty as county chairman in 1966.

The Lugar campaign, marked by the nearly 400 speeches that he made, was centered on a series of local problems rather than a single issue. Among the many problems addressed by Lugar were the open-dump burning of refuse, construction of the interstate highway inner loop, minority demands, and a lack of adequate recreation space. In his campaign, Barton stressed his record on public housing and claimed that his administration had made the streets safer, improved the city’s parks, and was responsible for the city’s high rate of employment. As the campaign entered its final days, most long-time election observers predicted that Barton would be reelected in a close race.

In an upset, Lugar defeated Barton 72,278 votes to 63,284, and the Republicans gained control of the city council with a 6 to 3 majority. Lugar’s surprise victory was attributed to a combination of low voter turnout among Democrats in Center Township and the strength of the Republican Party’s organization. In addition, Barton was hurt by Lugar’s attacks on the issues of open-dump burning in several wards that Democratic candidates historically carried by large majorities, including wards 13, 14, 16, 17, 24, and 26. A final factor in Lugar’s defeat of Barton was his strong showing in the African American community, with a 10- to 15-percent increase in votes over the 1966 congressional elections.

The 1967 election set the stage for the enactment of Unigov two years later and marked the beginning of a long period of Republican Party dominance in the city.

Revised March 2021

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