Mayors in north suburbs uncharacteristically mum about their re-election plans

Hamilton County mayors, from top left and continuing clockwise: Carmel's Jim Brainard, Fishers' Scott Fadness, Westfield's Andy Cook and Noblesville's Chris Jensen.

When it comes to their re-election plans, mayors in Indianapolis’ northern suburbs are playing their cards close to their chests—a departure from the last election cycle.

This time four years ago, each of the four Hamilton County mayors (Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield) had already announced plans to run in 2019.

Fast forward to today, and these mayors of Indy’s fast-growing northern climes are tight-lipped as the 2023 election season nears.

When IBJ reached out to ask about their election plans, the offices of Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen and Westfield Mayor Andy Cook either declined to say whether they were running again or didn’t respond.

We also didn’t hear back from Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry or Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron.

So what gives?

A number of factors may be at play. For one, elected officials may be waiting to see who else throws their hat in the ring, which could affect how they run their campaigns.

In Westfield, it’s widely believed that Cook isn’t running for a fourth term, though he has yet to publicly respond to that speculation. Two other Republicans, Westfield City Councilors Jake Gilbert and Scott Willis, already have declared their candidacies.

“Republican mayors in particular have to govern as centrist in order to win citywide, but are vulnerable to those in the primary that feel that they are not conservative enough,” says Chad Kinsella, associate professor of political science and director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University. “Suburban cities, long the home turf of the Republican Party, are becoming a lot more centrist and left leaning.”

That seems to be the trend in Hamilton County, where about 57 percent of registered voters voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, compared to the nearly 70 percent who voted for him in 2016.

Mayors are also a good source of a party’s “bench”—those that have the political chops and governing capability to move up to the next level, Kinsella says.

Fadness, a rising Republican star who has overseen Fishers during a time of explosive growth, could be weighing a run for higher office, as may others.

“Some of his colleagues may be in that same position and may be looking to what is available in 2024, or may be entertaining discussions from state and local party operatives interested in seeing them move up to the next level,” Kinsella said.

Elsewhere in the metro area, some suburban mayors have disclosed their plans.

Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett announced his re-election bid in June. Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers is running again and will have at least one opponent, Center Grove school board president Joe Hubbard, in the GOP primary.

Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell already announced he won’t seek re-election. He will be 80 by the time his term ends. And Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun, a three-term Democrat who led the redevelopment of the city’s downtown, told IBJ he is leaning toward not running in 2023.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has yet to say whether he plans to seek a third term. An announcement later in the year wouldn’t be out of character. In 2018, the mayor didn’t announce that he would be on the 2019 ballot until December.

Previously, Hogsett has said he favors limiting mayoral service to two terms. He’s also cited 67 as a good retirement age. He’ll reach the magic number in November 2023.

“But, for all practical purposes, I think age 67 would probably be a good time to start enjoying my family more, travel more, maybe retire,” he told IndyStar columnist James Briggs in 2018.

Has the mayor’s thinking changed? So far, he isn’t saying.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

14 thoughts on “Mayors in north suburbs uncharacteristically mum about their re-election plans

  1. Horrible Emily Styron knows she’s toast, so there’s no reason for her to reply.

    And, yes, “Boss” Hogsett would do all of central Indiana a favor if he would retire.

    1. Hey Bob, your 2000 Mules book is being pulled by the publisher because of multiple inaccuracies. Keep drinking that fake MAGA Kool aid.

    2. Hogsett is not a northern suburban mayor.

      And the GOP is not close to winning a county wide race any time soon, particularly in the age of Donald Trump.

  2. We’d do better if they all quit (Brainard should go to jail for steering work to indicted Aria Diagnostics) and were replaced by a random person’s name drawn from a hat.

    1. Paul, Lawrence is most definitely a northern suburb. It’s just not in Hamilton or Boone County.

      And the article specifically mentions the mayors of Greenfield, Shelbyville, and Franklin…none of which are as big as Lawrence (which has a population of about 50,000).

  3. The assumption should be yes the northern burb mayors are going to run — each has so much in their corporate funded reelection campaign chests that they couldn’t afford to not run and represent the companies that have bought and paid for their services. How else are we going to get 5 over 1 buildings on every corner, mega unnecessary road-construction done by 2 or 3 ‘bidders’, all the pizza one could consume, and of course–lots and lots of chain stores with extremely large signs to illuminate the night sky….
    We’re stuck between generica and a boring place with this lot…

    1. Agreed, except Cook has stopped taking money and instead allowed all those funds to go to “independent” (from being a puppet of the funders) Scott Willis.

  4. Change is often good. Administrations need more than one term to get major objectives accomplished. Additional terms can be good, as momentum can be capitalized on or it can be bad as power may be abused. Politics is a crap shoot…but it appears change may be good in a few communities.

  5. One of the reasons not mentioned in the article is that the Republican mayors of Fishers, Westfield and Carmel know that the general election is no longer a cakewalk. Democrats have won city council seats in Hamilton County in the last municipal election and they continue to improve their baseline every election, a trend that has accelerated during the era of Donald Trump. In 2019, Demos had about a 45 or 46% baseline in Fishers, Westfield and Carmel. (Zionsville actually elected a Democrat Mayor.) If they can find a strong, fiscally-conservative Democrat to run, they can win. Given the big-spending, big-borrowing ways of the mayors of those three cities, there is a significant percentage of Republicans who would gladly cross over to vote for a more fiscally conservative candidate, even if it is a Democrat.

    1. When you are able to find a fiscally conservative Democrat who will run and can get a nomination, please let us all know.

      Or a socially liberal Republican.

      The extreme wings of both parties prevent the nomination of centrists who would appeal to crossover voters.

    2. Has nothing to do with Trump. Carmel has been attracting Dems from Chicago area and the coasts for years. Jim has always been a closet Democrat. He gets his name in articles for being the “Republican” with Dem ideas.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}