Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Republican challenger Jefferson Shreve escalated their ad war over the past week with negative campaign commercials that make more pointed accusations.
In a recent ad, Shreve’s campaign says the mayor was “nowhere to be found” during the 2020 racial justice protests in downtown Indianapolis. A new Hogsett ad calls into question Shreve’s gun-control stances by using a video clip of the candidate struggling to answer a tough question.
The heated claims come with less than six weeks remaining before the Nov. 7 municipal election.
‘He was absent for several days after the riots.’
At a news conference on Tuesday, Shreve took his criticism a step further, saying the mayor was “absent for several days after the riots.”
After the violent protests over the weekend of May 29, 2020, the mayor did face questions about why he did not impose a curfew more quickly or make public statements sooner in an attempt to quell the violence, especially on the first night of the demonstrations.
But news coverage shows he was publicly visible and active that weekend, holding live-streamed press conferences at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 30, and again Sunday morning from the Mayor’s Conference Room on the 25th floor of the City-County Building.
The demonstrations began Friday evening, May 29, 2020, as they did in many cities across the country, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Later in the night, the Indianapolis protests turned violent, with looting, fires and vandalism. On Saturday night, the violence escalated and two people were killed. On Sunday, Hogsett imposed a curfew and travel restrictions.
When asked what Shreve meant by saying Hogsett was “absent” for several days, his campaign responded with a dictionary definition.
“Hogsett was absent during the riots,” the statement from campaign manager Matt Organ said. “According to the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘not present in a place, at an occasion, or as part of something.’”
In a statement to IBJ, Hogsett campaign manager Blake Hesch pointed to an independent investigation of the city’s response that the administration commissioned.
“Mayor Hogsett understood that reasonable questions would be raised by the violence that swept major cities in 2020, which is why almost immediately after the events of that summer, he commissioned an independent investigation and report into the activities of city staff and our law enforcement partners,” Hesch wrote. “Much like Mayor Hogsett’s numerous public appearances and press conferences from that weekend, the report is available to the public.”
In a new ad posted online Thursday, the Shreve campaign supports its criticism of Hogsett by citing an article from 93.1 WIBC-FM that links to a conservative talk show segment.
The Hogsett campaign statement continued, “We would suggest that both the Shreve campaign, and the city as a whole, would benefit from Jefferson listening less to right-wing radio shock jocks and more to the concerns of regular families who are tired of Trump-style politics infiltrating local government.”
Another Hogsett ad attacks Shreve on gun control
A new Hogsett ad continues the campaign’s ongoing effort to cast doubt on Shreve’s stated support of gun-control measures in Indianapolis after he received the National Rifle Association’s highest rating during an unsuccessful run for the Indiana Senate in 2016.
The ad uses a clip from Shreve’s video interview with Phil Bremen of ReCenter Indiana, an organization that promotes bipartisanship.
In that interview, Bremen asks Shreve about a photo that appeared on Shreve’s Twitter feed in which he stands near a man with a gun tucked into his waistband.
“What is the message it sent, do you think?” Bremen asks Shreve.
Shreve responds: “I wasn’t intending to send a message.”
Bremen then says, “I didn’t ask about intent, I’m talking about the message as received, at this point.” Shreve pauses, stammers and eventually responds: “Well. Gosh.”
The newest ad from the Hogsett campaign and ad firm Putnam Partners stops there.
Shreve seemed to refer to the ad in a mayoral candidate forum Thursday night with Hogsett.
“I look forward to being able to speak in complete sentences tonight,” Shreve said. “Mayor Hogsett has reduced me to some edits and soundbites in some of his ads, which have become a little sharp-elbowed, in what is candidly a competitive mayoral race.”
In the full ReCenter Indiana interview, Shreve goes on to tell Bremen that he didn’t know the man with the gun. He also said the man wasn’t a Shreve campaign volunteer and the group was canvassing for Councilor Josh Bain.
Shreve also says that he believes gun ownership is a Second Amendment right, but that gun owners should still be required to apply for and be approved for a permit to carry a weapon. The Indiana Legislature did away with the handgun permit requirement in 2022.
“I think that handgun ownership is a responsibility just as driving a car is a responsibility,” he said.
Campaign manager Organ wrote in a statement that Hogsett’s commercial is deceptive.
“Joe Hogsett is editing video clips and trying to deceive the citizens of Indianapolis,” Organ wrote.
Hogsett’s campaign said the 20 seconds of the ReCenter Indiana interview that were used were not edited.