Former congressman William H. Hudnut Iii defeated businessman Robert V. Welch to win his first of four Indianapolis mayoral elections. The 1975 election began with two contested primaries. Hudnut easily won the Republican nomination over two other candidates. Welch won the Democratic nomination in a seven-man field, upsetting the favorite, Marion County chairman William Schreiber, with a strong grassroots campaign. Three candidates from minor parties also contested the election.

Jobs and crime control were the central issues of the campaign. Hudnut proposed improving the budget for convention and tourism promotion, fuller utilization of the Economic Development Commission, and the possibility of tax-free bonds, as means of enlarging the city’s employment base.

Having labeled crime the number one campaign issue, Hudnut called for strong leadership, better training for police, and more participation in crime-fighting from residents of the city. Stressing the high rate of unemployment among those citizens between the ages of 18 and 30, Welch promised to call together all of the leaders of the community and to “put the full power of the mayor’s office” behind their efforts to improve the situation. Citing low morale as the major problem in the police department, Welch promised a new police chief if elected and called for more officers on the streets.

Hudnut won the mayoral race by a comfortable margin despite the lowest voter turnout in 13 years. Hudnut won the “new city” (the area added to Indianapolis by Unigov) 74,680 to 42,110. Welch won the Democratic-leaning “old city” 67,646 to 49,410. Hudnut’s victory was attributed to a combination of the impact of Unigov, which included the predominantly Republican suburban areas of the county. The 1975 election marked the beginning of Hudnut’s 16-year administration, the longest in the city’s history.

Revised March 2021

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