The Indy Chamber has endorsed Democractic incumbent Joe Hogsett in this year’s mayoral election, but also praised Republican challenger Jim Merritt for his work in the Indiana General Assembly.
Hogsett is seeking a second term, while Merritt, who has been a state senator since 1990, is hoping to oust him.
In its endorsement released Monday morning, the chamber noted Hogsett’s focus on inclusive growth, specifically mentioning his recent proposal to restructure economic incentives to require jobs pay at least $18 per hour and Indy Achieves Promise Scholarship, a new program sponsored by the city that provides financial aid to low-income students from Marion County who attend IUPUI or Ivy Tech Community College.
The endorsement also mentions Hogsett’s ability to keep a balanced budget while making investments in public safety and infrastructure, and his support for improving public transportation and regionalism.
Chamber chief policy officer Mark Fisher said the group “faced a difficult decision.”
“Sen. Merritt has been a leader on government reform and a champion of pro-business priorities who clearly loves Indianapolis and has always earned our support for his legislative campaigns,” Fisher said in a written statement. “If he is a member of the Indiana Senate in 2020, we’ll eagerly work with him on local and regional concerns, building on the important ideas he’s raised during this mayoral race.”
The Indy Chamber also endorsed Hogsett during his campaign in 2015 against Republican business owner and political novice Chuck Brewer. In 2011, the chamber backed Republican incumbent Greg Ballard, but in 2007, the chamber favored Democratic incumbent Bart Peterson against Ballard.
In a statement, Hogsett said he was honored to receive the endorsement.
“Over the last four years, I have been proud to partner with the Indy Chamber,” Hogsett said in the statement. “Together, we have charted a new roadmap for our city’s economic development, unveiled an innovative inclusive growth strategy, and continued to invest in opportunities for our city’s workforce. The Indy Chamber is an invaluable asset to our city and a strong partner to my office. I am honored to receive their support today and I look forward to continuing to work together to move Indianapolis forward.”
Merritt said elections are “won with votes, not endorsements,” and he would continue to work with IndyChamber on problems facing Indianapolis. He pointed out that Ballard was able to win without the chamber’s endorsement.
“After having been endorsed by the Indy Chamber in every election for the last 29 years, I am, of course, disappointed in the chamber’s endorsement of Mayor Joe Hogsett in spite of his record of failed leadership, crumbling infrastructure, and record murders,” Merritt said in a written statement. “However, I do appreciate the chamber acknowledging that it was a difficult decision and that our campaign has “offered thoughtful plans on a range of important issues, like focusing on substance abuse treatment as a preemptive strategy to address crime and poverty.”
The chamber also endorsed candidates in the majority of Indianapolis City-County Council races—14 Democrats and four Republicans—including the current president, vice president and minority leader.
The council is currently controlled by Democrats 14-11, but the governing body could look different after the 2019 election as eight councilors are not seeking re-election.
The chamber mostly stuck with incumbents, endorsing 13 current councilors. Candidates in four races the chamber supports are vying for open seats. Only one endorsed candidate—Democrat Jessica McCormick—is a challenger to an incumbent. McCormick is running against Republican Andy Harris, who was appointed to the seat after Marilyn Pfisterer retired.
Election Day is Nov. 5.