After nearly eight years in office, Mayor Greg Ballard announced he would not seek a third term in 2015. Democrats were favored to win the next mayoral election, regardless of their choice of candidate, because of Marion County’s changing demographics, which included increases in minority populations and continued movement of Republican voters to suburban counties. As evidence of the shift, President Barack Obama won the county in 2012 and Democrats swept every county office on the ballot in 2014.

Aware of this shift, prominent Republicans declined to run for mayor in 2015. Five mostly unknown candidates ran in the May GOP primary. However, party leaders endorsed Chuck Brewer, a restaurant owner and Marine veteran. Ballard endorsed Brewer and gave him much of his unused campaign funds.

Brewer was a first-time candidate who had lived in Indianapolis only five years. However, the Republican Party hoped voters would be attracted to Brewer’s ideas, along with his business and military success. In a show of unity, prominent Indianapolis Democrats rallied around former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett. He easily won the Democratic Party nomination.

Hogsett made a memorable pledge to be “a mayor of ideas, not a mayor of ideology,” while Brewer promised to make Indianapolis “a city people want to live in, not just commute to.”

Overall, the tone of the general election between Brewer and Hogsett was cordial. Both candidates focused on issues instead of attacking each other. This election also saw remarkable similarities between the two candidates. Both offered proposals on crime, education, and jobs. Each candidate promised to reduce crime by assigning 150 new police officers to city streets and agreed that the mayor’s office should have a greater role in education. They differed only in specifics on how to achieve those goals.

Hogsett called for a return to the concept of neighborhood policing, which helps officers get to know the residents of the neighborhoods they patrol. He also proposed a summer jobs program to deter youth from crime and the construction of a new criminal justice center and jail.

Brewer wanted to form a team of social workers to help police respond to calls involving people with mental health problems. He also sought to expand the city’s drug task force to handle the rising heroin epidemic. Brewer, who hired ex-offenders to work at his restaurants, said he would encourage other Indianapolis businesses to offer a fresh start to nonviolent offenders.

Hogsett saw the mayor’s office as a way to bring different organizations together to improve education. His plan included using incentives to attract skilled teachers to local schools and having mentors to help children in poverty.

Brewer proposed adding two new members to the Indianapolis Public Schools board appointed by the mayor. Doing so, he said, would make it easier for the district to get what it needs from city departments. Brewer also wanted to create a “one-stop” website where parents could easily compare charter schools and public schools based on the needs of their children and enroll them on the same site.

Both Hogsett and Brewer believed Indianapolis needed to attract new residents to bolster funding from tax revenue. They also agreed that more economic development should be directed toward neighborhoods after decades of being focused primarily on downtown.

Hogsett said he would introduce neighborhood upgrades such as satellite offices in buildings around the city to bring services closer to residents. Hogsett also wanted to clean up the blight of abandoned properties, which contributed to criminal activity and hurt development.

Brewer proposed creating economic development corridors in areas around the city to spark growth and drive new retail traffic. He also said he would seek state approval to create urban grocery store development zones to solve the problem of food deserts.

Hogsett quickly raised more campaign cash than Brewer, and his ads were on television stations across Central Indiana. By September, Amos Brown, strategic analyst for Radio One Indianapolis, and other journalists showed Hogsett with a steady lead in the polls.

While Hogsett promoted his experience as a U.S. attorney and lifelong Hoosier, Brewer, with his status as a new candidate, tried to present a fresh alternative to politics as usual. However, it was difficult for Brewer to overcome the lack of name recognition among most voters.

Hogsett easily won the election with 62 percent of the vote to Brewer’s 38 percent. Democrats retained their majority on the City-County Council.

Revised March 2021

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