IBJ, Indy Chamber team up to host mayoral debate

The Indianapolis Business Journal and the Indy Chamber are teaming up to host the first mayoral debate of 2019. 

The debate is set to take place during the chamber’s annual HobNob event, at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown.

IBJ city government reporter Hayleigh Colombo is scheduled to moderate the hour-long debate featuring Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett and Republican candidate Jim Merritt. 

Mark Fisher, chief policy officer for the Indy Chamber, said the debate will be more like a conversation on the issues facing the city that business leaders care about, such as infrastructure, homelessness, economic development and crime.

Candidates will be seated, as opposed to standing at podiums, and they won’t be given specific time limits for answering questions.

Fisher said HobNob has evolved over the years, but has always been a way to engage the business community and political leaders. This year, the chamber wanted to arrange a more formal way to introduce the mayoral candidates. 

Fisher said they think the debate will be a kickoff to the election season.

“We want people paying attention to these elections earlier,” Fisher said.

IBJ is regularly a sponsor of the HobNob event, but IBJ Publisher Greg Morris said it’s the first time the media company has co-hosted a debate and had a member of its editorial team serve as moderator. 

He said the timing is right, given IBJ’s recent expansion of government and political coverage. 

“Hobnob has been the go-to annual political event year after year in Indianapolis,” Morris said in a written statement. “IBJ’s increased role this year as event partner is a natural enhancement of our long-standing partnership with the Indy Chamber and is consistent with our increased political coverage and advocacy for a better Indianapolis.” 

Debate tickets, available at the HobNob event on first-come, first-served basis, are priced at $25 for chamber members and $35 for non-members. VIP tickets are available for $100 for members and $150 for non-members.

The debate will take place in a separate room at the HobNob event with limited seating. It will be live-streamed into the main ballroom and an overflow room. IBJ also will live-stream the event.

So far, one other mayoral forum has been scheduled. The Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis is hosting a forum at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at Indiana Landmarks, 1201 N. Central Ave. Hogsett, Merritt and Libertarian candidate Doug McNaughton will participate. Each candidate will give a 15-minute statement and answer questions from the audience. 

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