In the first municipal election of the 21st  century, Mayor Bart Peterson won reelection and the Democratic Party took the majority in the City-County Council for the first time in four decades. 

Mayor Bart Peterson prepares to sign the steel beam to be placed at the new terminal building at the Indianapolis International Airport, 2007 Credit: Indianapolis Star View Source

Peterson’s record made him a favorite to win reelection. During his first term, Peterson had focused on fighting crime and improving the local economy, a claim bolstered by a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago that cited Indianapolis as one of the leading cities in the Midwest for job growth. His administration worked to develop high-demand sectors in the local economy, which led to the expansion of science initiatives such as Biocrossroads. Peterson was also credited with helping to improve education by making Indianapolis one of the first cities to approve independent charter schools. In addition, the city was promoted as a top arts and cultural destination. 

The Marion County Republican Party made regaining the mayor’s office a high priority. At their slating convention in February, Republicans endorsed Marion County Treasurer Greg Jordan. He overcame challenges from businessman Bob Parker and State Representative Phil Hinkle. Jordan went on to easily win the GOP primary in May. Jordan said job creation would be his priority and offered to use his experience as county treasurer to provide sound fiscal management of the city.

Despite his status as the underdog, Jordan aggressively attacked Peterson on multiple fronts. He accused the mayor of not doing enough to attract high-wage jobs. He claimed Peterson accepted campaign contributions from companies and individuals that held contracts with the city, alleging conflict of interest.

Jordan also hoped anger over rising property taxes would motivate enough voters to support him, but Peterson’s campaign responded by reminding voters that state government set property tax rates. The Black press also criticized Jordan for his perceived “lack of visibility” among African American voters, a key demographic in the city that past Republican mayors actively had courted. 

Peterson maintained a commanding lead throughout the election. Jordan’s campaign seemed to finally pick up steam after a lively debate between the candidates at Ben Davis High School, which was televised in October, but it was too late. 

Polls conducted that month by the Indianapolis Star and WTHR (Channel 13) showed a majority of voters across economic, gender, and racial lines supporting Peterson over Jordan. Peterson cruised to a second term in November with 63 percent of the vote.

Revised March 2021

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