Political neophyte Ballard cruises to second term

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A contentious battle for Indianapolis mayor culminated in a second term for Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, who won the race with 51 percent of the vote. His Democratic challenger, Melina Kennedy, garnered 47 percent.

Ballard, who won his first political victory in a huge 2007 upset against two-term incumbent Bart Peterson, maintained his appeal as a political outsider and moderate Republican, which helped him in an election that otherwise brought strong Democratic victories.

Democrats swept control of the City-County Council, winning all four at-large seats and capturing seats in tossup districts such as the Beech Grove area to gain a 16-13 edge.

 During the race, Ballard touted his administration’s fiscal restraint; initiation of public-safety reforms; and spending to repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure as selling points for his re-election. Ballard’s first term included sizable initiatives such as the sale of the city’s water and sewer utilities, the long-term lease of Indianapolis’ parking meters and plans for a large development on the south side of downtown near Eli Lilly’s campus.

Kennedy, a former deputy mayor under Peterson, made K-12 education the centerpiece of her campaign, pledging to make it a top priority if elected. She also rolled out plans to spend proceeds from the utilities sale on early childhood education, crime prevention and job training, and attacked Ballard’s record on issues such as public safety and economic development.

Observers said Kennedy’s negative approach—and potentially her gender—hurt her in the race.

In his next term, Ballard is expected to focus on initiatives to rejuvenate the urban areas just outside downtown to the borders of Interstate 465. Community leaders have promoted ideas for improving mass transit and channeling utilities sale money toward neighborhood projects, ideas that Ballard has supported.

They’ve also discussed plans for decentralizing Indianapolis Public Schools, but Ballard has not yet weighed in on those plans.

The new council dynamics—with Democrats strongly in the majority—will test Ballard’s ability to reach across the aisle. If he is unable or unwilling to do so, he risks getting little accomplished in his second term.•

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