Democrats expanded their control of the Indianapolis City-County Council on Tuesday night, but Mayor Joe Hosett said he’ll still be focused on bipartisanship going forward.
Hogsett, a Democrat who easily won a second term as mayor after defeating state Sen. Jim Merritt, told IBJ on Wednesday morning his priorities for the next four years likely aren’t going to change, even after Democrats grabbed five—potentially six—council seats from Republicans.
Leading up to Election Day, Marion County Democrats held a 14-11 majority on the council. If preliminary results hold true, that majority will grow to 20-5, beginning Jan. 1.
The closest race was in District 15, where Democrat Jessica McCormick appeared to defeat incumbent Republican Andy Harris, who had been appointed to the seat earlier this year to replace Republican Marilyn Pfisterer, who retired. McCormick had a lead of less than 50 votes, according to unofficial returns.
Hogsett has been a fairly moderate Democratic mayor and has been able to gain support from Republican councilors on several initiatives. In his first term, his administration built three balanced budgets that received bipartisan support, including in 2018 when his $1.17 billion budget proposal passed the council unanimously.
He told IBJ he’ll continue to work with both Democrats and Republicans in the next four years, because local officials don’t have the time or distance from constituents to argue party politics.
“As I’ve said 100 times, there is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican pothole,” he said. “It’s just roads deteriorating that need to be fixed or improved upon. That’s the philosophy we’ve tried to bring in our relationship with council, and I don’t see that changing.”
Republicans fielded candidates in 24 of the 25 council districts. Seven districts (Districts 3, 5, 7, 16, 18, 23 and 24) were considered open seats after incumbents chose not to seek re-election. Republicans held on to Districts 18, 23 and 24.
But at least two incumbents lost to Democratic challengers. Among the GOP casualties were council GOP leader Mike McQuillen, who was defeated in District 4 by Democrat Ethan Evans, and incumbent Janice McHenry, who lost her District 6 seat to Democratic challenger Crista Carlino. Both were first elected in 2007.
On Tuesday night, McHenry told IBJ she was disappointed by the results, saying she felt she’d proven herself as a hard worker and someone who was concerned about the community. She said it “floors” her that some of her colleagues also lost races, because it “seems like hard work and dedication, honesty and caring about your community are not what people are looking for.”
Hogsett told IBJ he was pleased with Tuesday’s results in part because several current councilors chose not to seek re-election, including Democrats Christine Scales and Joseph Simson.
“We lost a lot of councilors, so to add new councilors, new perspective … I think that’s a good thing,” he said.
Among those new councilors are four young Democrats: Keith Potts, who beat incumbent Colleen Fanning in the District 2 race; Ali Brown, who won in District 5 against Republican Adam Cox; Carlino; and Evans.
Beginning Jan. 1, members of Marion County Young Democrats will hold six city-county council seats, which is important because the city’s median age is 34, said Brandon Evans, president of the organization that promotes young candidates for the party.
“Not only is it important for building out our bench, … but additionally, you can’t become what you can’t see, so representation is incredibly important, especially when it comes to young people to show them what’s possible and to make their communities better,” he said.
Evans doesn’t expect the young Democrats elected to office to have a list of their own priorities, but he said they’ll bring a new perspective to issues Democrats county-wide already see as important, like infrastructure and public safety.
Former City-County Council President Maggie Lewis, a Democrat, said she doesn’t think much will change on the council with a larger majority.
“I don’t think this automatically says we’re going to move one direction versus another,” Lewis said.
But she said the new set of councilors that will be joining the governing body will “force us to think outside the box.”
“I believe this group of councilors is going to bring that diversity that we need to the conversation,” Lewis said.