Final finance reports show record spending in Indy mayoral race

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Joe Hogsett, left, and Jefferson Shreve

Spending on the 2023 race between Mayor Joe Hogsett and Republican opponent Jefferson Shreve surpassed $20.7 million, according to final campaign finance reports filed Wednesday—a record amount for an Indianapolis mayoral election.

The total was bolstered by heavy spending by Shreve, the wealthy founder of a national self-storage company, who loaned his campaign millions of dollars from his personal pocketbook. Democratic incumbent Hogsett had a record fundraising cycle and spent heavily to keep up.

Shreve loaned his campaign $10.5 million and gave direct donations totaling $3 million to fund a total spend of $14.4 million. In the final month of the campaign, Shreve spent just over $2 million on consulting and advertising from Omaha, Nebraska-based Bullhorn Communications.

Hogsett spent nearly $6.3 million last year on his campaign. The incumbent mayor raised $2.6 million leading up to the contest, which his campaign said in a press release exceeded his “record-breaking fundraising haul in his 2019 campaign.”

Shreve was the best-funded GOP candidate Hogsett has faced in a mayoral election.

His previous Republican opponents—Chuck Brewer in 2015 and Jim Merritt in 2019—both complained that they were underfunded and couldn’t get the financial support they needed from the GOP to make their races more competitive. Both were outfunded by a margin of at least 4-1.

Running on what he said was a desire to finish business disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hogsett won about 60% of the vote to Shreve’s 40%. With his victory, Hogsett became the first mayor since the late Bill Hudnut to win three consecutive terms. Hudnut, who ended his fourth term in 1992, was the longest-serving Indianapolis mayor. If Hogsett serves a full third term, he would become the city’s second-longest serving mayor.

The campaign spending dwarfs that from any previous Indianapolis mayoral campaign and puts it more in the realm of less-competitive races for U.S. Senate.

Last year, incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young raised $14.5 million to handily defeat Democrat Tom McDermott, who had raised just $1.1 million. In the competitive 2018 race between Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Democrat Joe Donnelly, outside donations and Braun’s personal wealth contributed to a hefty total of nearly $40 million raised.

Indianapolis City-Council President Vop Osili spent $348,000 on the election last year—more than any other council candidate—but much of the money went to other candidates.

He contributed about $55,000 to the VOP PAC, which he has said he formed to help Democrats get elected in 2023 but could also serve as a launching pad for him to seek higher office.

Much of the rest of Osili’s campaign cash went to help Democratic council candidates in contested races and to Hogsett in his victory over Shreve.

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