The Democratic mayors of Indianapolis and Fort Wayne cruised to big victories in Tuesday’s local elections, denying Republicans their hopes of capturing leadership in either of Indiana’s largest cities.
Voters decided who would fill dozens of mayoral offices for the next four years, while unofficial election returns showed those in Vigo County supporting the construction of western Indiana’s first casino in Terre Haute.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett declared victory over Republican state Sen. Jim Merritt in Tuesday’s local elections. Unofficial Marion County results showed Hogsett with 70% of the vote.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry extended his 12-year tenure leading Indiana’s second-largest city with about 60% support.
Hogsett touted his work with Republicans on the City-County Council on efforts such as hiring more police offices and adding streetlights, despite criticism from Merritt over continued troubles with violent crime in the city and the condition of local roads.
“If you are willing to do the work that makes bipartisanship real, if you are willing to seek out what unites us rather than exploits what divides us, you can make true and lasting our collective progress together,” Hogsett said.
Republicans had targeted the Fort Wayne race as they sought to boost their political dominance in the state by taking control of mayoral offices held by Democrats in many of Indiana’s biggest cities.
Henry pointed to the city’s economic growth and the completion of several downtown construction projects as successes during his time as mayor.
“Over the last 10 years there’s been over $500 million invested in our downtown,” Henry said. “Because of that we have become a shining beacon in the state of Indiana.”
A top aide and high school friend of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg will replace him as South Bend’s mayor as he won nearly two-thirds of the vote.
James Mueller, the city’s Department of Community Investment director, said in his victory speech that “Trumpism has no place in South Bend.” He declared the city would take the election momentum into 2020 and pointed to Buttigieg while saying “with our next president standing right over there.”
The crowd responded with a chant of “Pete! Pete! Pete!”
Republican Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke easily won a third term over two little-known opponents, and Democrats didn’t run a challenger.
Voters in Muncie and Elkhart decided to change political parties for mayor after their current leaders didn’t seek reelection while facing controversies in their administrations.
Republican City Councilman Dan Ridenour won in Muncie, where Democratic Mayor Dennis Tyler announced he would step aside amid an FBI investigation that’s resulted in the city’s former building commissioner pleading guilty to money laundering and wire fraud.
In Elkhart, Democrat Rod Roberson, a former city councilman, defeated a former Republican mayor in an open seat after Republican Mayor Tim Neese abandoned his campaign for a second term as the city’s police leadership faced criticism over the handling of misconduct cases, including a video showing two officers beating a handcuffed man. Two city officers were charged this year with federal civil rights violations for using excessive force.
Republican Howard County commissioner Tyler Moore easily won the Kokomo mayor’s race, where Democrat Greg Goodnight didn’t run again after three terms.
The Vigo County referendum on Tuesday’s ballot was included in a gambling bill approved by state lawmakers this year that would make Terre Haute the 14th city in Indiana with a state-licensed or tribal casino.
Vigo County clerk’s office vote tallies show more than 60% of voters favored allowing the casino.
Two casino companies have expressed interest in Terre Haute, with one touting a project of at least $100 million that would have 300 to 400 workers. They have until Dec. 1 to submit proposals to the Indiana Gaming Commission, which would select an operator for the license.