Opinion and Editorials

EDITORIAL: Hogsett could spark debate

July 19, 2014

Joe Hogsett’s July 14 announcement that he’ll step down as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana at the end of the month renewed speculation that he will run for mayor of Indianapolis next year. And to that prospect we can only say, bring it on.

Indianapolis needs a spirited debate—over its crime problem in particular, but also about education and ongoing budget issues.

Since his appointment in 2010, the former Indiana secretary of state and state Democratic Party chief has aggressively put two city-county councilors, Democrat Paul Bateman and Republican Lincoln Plowman, behind bars—the former for defrauding an investor and the latter for bribery. He’s also gone after gun crimes and some of the most repulsive of the pond scum, child pornographers.

Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, hasn’t said whether he will seek a third term, although he had $699,993 in his war chest as of December, the latest reporting period, should he choose to.

Ballard could tout ongoing investments in downtown, his fight for mass transit, and his record of promoting electric vehicles and bicycling. He also has spent tens of millions of dollars on paving and other infrastructure and managed to preserve the city’s top bond ratings.

But shootings continue to be a scourge during his watch, and it’s here where a prosecutor’s perspective could be most valuable. Hogsett might have much to offer.

Voters also would be interested to learn whether Hogsett, unlike Ballard, wants responsibility for Indianapolis Public Schools, and how Hogsett would attract wealthier residents whose income taxes would help replace revenue lost to property tax caps.

Hogsett is prevented by law from running for another office until he vacates his existing post. So he’s unlikely to be forthcoming about his plans for a while. But his likely entry into the race just made local politics more interesting. And the city and surrounding area stand to benefit from a good debate.

Bayh and the governorship

Hogsett wasn’t the only politician making news last week. His longtime ally, former two-term governor and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, very publicly endorsed a Hogsett run for mayor, setting off parallel speculation that Bayh’s step back into the limelight suggested a possible run for a third term as governor in 2016.

On the outside chance there is substance to the chatter, let’s hope that Bayh’s motivation would be to drive real change that would make Indiana a better place. When he previously was governor, Bayh often appeared motivated by his national political aspirations, which meant avoiding controversy on the home front.

Hoosiers voted to shake things up with Mitch Daniels, and the state still lags in income and seemingly countless other benchmarks. Indiana needs more change, not more caution.•

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