Democrats ramp up early campaign effort to re-elect Hogsett, Democrat-led council

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Indianapolis Democrats are making earlier-than-usual organizing efforts to try to ensure as many victories as possible in the municipal election this November, when Mayor Joe Hogsett and all 25 City-County Council seats will be on the ballot.

Hogsett and Council President Vop Osili have decided to pool resources and launch what Democrats say is the first true citywide coordinated campaign in Marion County in order to try to re-elect the one-term mayor and expand Democrats’ current three-seat majority on the 25-member council.

The coordinated campaign is also staffing up early, opening new offices and investng in technology they say will enable them to reach more voters. 

Hogsett and Osili hope to devote $250,000 to the effort, according to a source with knowledge of the campaign. It is being funded by their campaigns, and individual council candidates are not being asked to contribute. 

“It’s a landmark campaign for Indianapolis,” said Hogsett’s campaign spokeswoman, Heather Sager. “We’ve never seen an effort like this at this level.”

This weekend, the coordinated campaign will open two physical offices: one at 5416 W. 38th St. and one at 2111 Washington St. It plans to open a total of four throughout the campaign, which will be used by campaign staff and volunteers.

It also hired Democratic strategist Peter Luster as the coordinated campaign manager, and four field organizers: Courtney Meyers, Shea Joyce, Alex Nyirendah and Spencer Garnier.

The benefit of doing a coordinated campaign, Sager said, is that it allows candidates from up and down the ticket to spend resources efficiently. She said the field organizers plan to work in every district.

As an example, Sager said if both the mayor and a council candidate had five volunteers out canvassing for each of them, their efforts could potentially double if instead, a coordinated campaign sent 10 volunteers out to campaign for both people.

“Pooling resources can really help everyone,” she said. Sager is the only direct Hogsett for Indianapolis campaign employee.

The coordinated campaign also invested in an auto-dialer system, which allows volunteers to automatically connect to people in the voter file without spending volunteer time dialing numbers.

It will also for the first time deploy a voter-texting system, which will allow the campaign to reach younger voters and first-time voters who wouldn’t be as receptive to a phone call.

“We’ve made initial contact with people who start the conversation saying they didn’t realize there was an election this year,” Sager said. “We’re able to have a back-and-forth with them in a medium that’s comfortable to them.”

Compared to 2015, the campaign effort for Democrats is starting much earlier this year. For example, Hogsett for Indianapolis opened its headquarters and hired field organizers in September that year.

“We are a full five months ahead,” Sager said.

But the Hogsett campaign is not the only one that is ramping up.

Greg Lannan, political director for state Sen. Jim Merritt, told IBJ that the Merritt campaign has had “dozens, over 100 people, who want to get involved and volunteer.”

“We feel so good with where we’re at,” Lannan said.

When asked how many paid staff members Merritt has brought on, Lannan said “a few.” 

“The difference is we’ve got willing help,” Lannan said. “Hogsett has to pay for folks because he knows people aren’t happy. We’re not going to have a need to pay folks.”

Asked if the early ramp-up is a sign that Hogsett believes he is vulnerable, Sager said no.

“This is all about Mayor Hogsett and President Osili working together closely to implement a sophisticated strategic effort, not just to re-elect the mayor, but to grow our council majority,” she said.

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