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Attorney wins by wide margin to be next Indianapolis mayor

November 4, 2015

Democrat Joe Hogsett was elected to become the 49th mayor of Indianapolis, cruising to an easy victory on a Tuesday election night that overwhelmingly favored incumbent mayors in other big cities across Indiana.

Hogsett will take the place of two-term Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, who didn't run for re-election, to lead the state's largest city.

Voters kept their current mayors in office in Fort Wayne, Evansville, South Bend and Terre Haute, where the older brother of NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird narrowly lost to two-term Republican Mayor Duke Bennett.

In Indianapolis, Hogsett campaigned as a front-runner, following his prominent role as the city's former top federal prosecutor and his time as Indiana's secretary of state. He also had a more than 4-to-1 campaign fundraising advantage over Republican candidate Chuck Brewer, a restaurant owner and first-time political candidate.

But at times it was hard to tell the difference between the candidates, with both calling for similar policy prescriptions for the city's troubles.

Both campaigned on shifting the city's economic development focus from downtown to outlying neighborhoods and seeking additional police officers to combat crime, as shooting incidents are up about 20 percent from last year. Hogsett also touted spending cuts he made during his four years as U.S. attorney, a position he resigned from last year to run for mayor.

"Regardless of who you voted for, regardless of what part of the city you live in or what party you belong to — from the bottom of my heart — thank you," Hogsett told a crowd at Union Station in downtown Indianapolis. "Now is the moment to cast aside the despair of violence and replace it with the hope of a summer job for our young people."

In the GOP stronghold of Fort Wayne, Democratic Mayor Tom Henry won a third term leading the state's second-largest city, defeating Republican City Councilman Mitch Harper with about 57 percent of the vote, according to unofficial final tallies.

Henry's campaign touted downtown development initiatives and a drop in the city's unemployment rate by nearly two-thirds to 4.2 percent since he took office. But Republicans had criticized his response to allegations that the Democratic city clerk threatened city employees' jobs if they didn't help the campaign of a top deputy running to succeed her. Both officials resigned, although former deputy clerk Angie Davis remained on Tuesday's ballot.

Despite being a Republican-leaning city, Fort Wayne has had a Democratic mayor since 1999.

In Evansville, Republican Mayor Lloyd Winnecke won in a landslide over Democratic state Rep. Gail Riecken, who conceded the race. Unofficial final tallies show Winnecke with about 62 percent of the vote.

In the Terre Haute mayoral race, the older brother of basketball star Bird, Mark Bird, ran as the Democratic candidate against the GOP incumbent Bennett. The candidates clashed over Bennett's financial leadership of the city that faces a multimillion-dollar general fund deficit.

Unofficial results show Bennett has held onto his job with a narrow victory over Bird. Results from the Vigo County clerk's office with all precincts reporting show Bennett with 52 percent of the vote compared with 48 percent for Bird.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg notched an easy early victory in his first time facing voters since he came out as gay in June. The Democrat's announcement drew little discussion as he sought a second term against Republican Kelly Jones, a little-known jewelry maker.

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