Indianapolis mayoral debate recap

Joe Hogsett and Jefferson Shreve faced off live on WISH-TV. Photo courtesy of IndyStar


Monday evening, Oct. 23, Mayor Joe Hogsett (D) and previous City-County Council member Jefferson Shreve (R) took the stage for Indianapolis’ first live televised mayoral debate in nearly 20 years, according to WISH-TV. The mayoral candidates’ first debate was held Oct. 8 and co-sponsored by the African American Coalition of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Recorder and Radio One. Hogsett and Shreve addressed questions presented by Black Indianapolis residents surrounding public safety, food deserts, education, housing, healthcare and much more. 

Student voting 

Butler University joined the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge — a national mission to increase voter turnout and civic engagement on U.S. college campuses — in 2019 and was awarded as a “Gold” level campus with a 70-79% voting rate for the presidential election. Other nearby schools like Indiana University Bloomington and Purdue University have both reported about a 20% increase to 60-69% of students on campus voting. 

The 2023 general election will take place Nov. 7, and a voting center will be in Hinkle Fieldhouse. To submit a ballot, voters must have been registered to vote in Marion County by Oct. 10. 

The reality for most university students is that they don’t have a consistent address year-round. Campaign volunteers and canvassers do not stop by dorms to drop off fliers, so often the only way for students to interact with local politics is through outside news and lectures organized by on-campus student organizations. 

Dylan Noble is a sophomore political science major who stressed the value of students voting in local elections. 

“It is very important that people voice their opinions through voting because that is going to affect how our lives are, in particular with local elections,” Noble said. “I do not think people realize the importance of local elections — often they’re overlooked — but local elections are especially important because they have to do with taxes and infrastructure.” 

Getting into politics can seem intimidating, especially for young adults separating themselves from their family and their family’s opinions potentially for the first time. In a phenomenon coined “election stress disorder” by therapist Steven Stosny during the 2016 presidential election, and echoed in data pooled by the American Psychological Association during the 2020 presidential election, 68% of Americans felt overwhelming stress from the election. Asking the always busy college student to add another task to their to-do list may be met with an exasperated groan, but in a 2022 poll conducted by Data for Progress, 70% of 18 to 29 year olds feel their generation is underrepresented in Congress — so getting students out to the polls, regardless of political affiliation, is vital. 

For the 2023 municipal election, over 620,000 people were registered to vote in Marion County, but only 13% — just under 80,000 — actually submitted a ballot. That number is far lower than the average nationwide voter turnout for 2020 — about 66% — which has risen incrementally for the 2018, 2020 and 2022 election years. 

“It is important for all citizens to participate in the political process,” Noble said. “For college students and Butler students in particular, it’s especially important for us because we are, for the most part, getting our last level of education before we go out into the real world.” 

Campaign ideals 

The Shreve for Mayor site lists four pillars of Shreve’s campaign: public safety, infrastructure, neighborhoods and animal welfare. The Hogsett for Indianapolis site also lists four issues focused on in Hogsett’s previous two terms: preparing children for education and the workforce, economic growth, infrastructure and public safety. 

A key difference between Hogsett and Shreve’s stances on public safety revolves around the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD). In his two terms so far, Hogsett has hired over half of the current IMPD force — over 700 — but Indianapolis is still consistently losing officers and has over 300 unfilled IMPD positions according to WTHR. 

“My focus will be on the retention of our veteran officers first, and prioritizing retention over recruitment,” Shreve said during the Oct. 8 debate. 

While an understaffed police force is a problem many cities are facing, the focus of the debate on Oct. 8 was Black issues in Marion County. Moderators of the debate introduced the topic by stating that many Black Indianapolis residents feel over-policed, rather than protected and served. Hogsett said that if he were to hold office for a third term, he would continue to work towards police-community relationships. 

“Black leadership in the IMPD have made a priority to go out in the community to recruit new officers, including women, African American and Latinx officers, so that the IMPD truly represents and looks like the city that they are sworn to protect and serve,” Hogsett said. 

Both Shreve and Hogsett take similar stances on gun control in Indianapolis: one, recall permitless carry, two, ban assault weapons and three, raise the minimum age for gun purchase to 21 years old. 

During his time in office, Hogsett has appointed three special assistant U.S. attorneys to solely focus on gun violence, namely in organized crime and domestic abuse cases. During the Oct. 8 debate, Shreve pointed out that in Hogsett’s time as mayor, Indianapolis reached a record-breaking number of homicides — 271 in 2021 — and the solve rate of violent crimes in the city has fallen from roughly 80% to 35%. Shreve attributes this to the high turnover rate at IMPD, hence the emphasis on retaining officers over recruiting officers. 

“The challenge is the [difference] between what we are compensating our first- and second-year officers and those veteran [officers] becomes so narrow that our [veteran officers] are leaving,” Shreve said during the Oct. 8 debate. “It’s that veteran talent that is best able, for example, to serve in the investigations unit, which is in part attributable to our significant decline in the solve rate of violent crimes.” 

Regarding infrastructure, Hogsett claimed that during the last two terms he has addressed decades of unattended road maintenance, and now he is working towards fixing the funding formula for infrastructural maintenance. In 2022, Hogsett announced a $1 billion plan to address new roads, sidewalks, trails and ADA-compliant ramps. The plan is set to span over five years, with Hogsett’s end goal being to “enhance infrastructure and pedestrian safety across Indianapolis neighborhoods,” as stated on his campaign website. 

Hogsett introduces himself on his campaign website as “a leader who always puts people before politics,” and with this he has put an emphasis on growing Indianapolis’ economy and job market. His website claims he has created 10,000 jobs in Indianapolis through the supporting up programs like Project Indy, which currently list an extensive number of jobs for Marion County youth.

Oct. 23 debate highlights 

While the debate televised on Monday evening addressed many issues concerning Marion County, compiled below are some highlights. 

One focus of Shreve for Mayor’s advertisement campaign criticized who he called “Photo Op Joe” for his absence during “riots,” as described by the ad, downtown during 2020. Hogsett responded to a question regarding his whereabouts during the riots saying he was working from home, but in complete contact with IMPD and his administration — giving orders from afar. Shreve attested that any IMPD officer on the scene would reiterate that they were given the order to stand aside. 

Both mayoral candidates have put some emphasis on the revival of downtown Indianapolis during their campaigns, though they cannot agree on what that looks like. During his time as mayor, Hogsett has endorsed Spark on the Circle, an initiative to create a community-centered greenspace on Monument Circle to make Indianapolis more pedestrian friendly. For 2023, Spark has expanded into the brick streets surrounding Monument Circle — closing part of it to traffic. Shreve plans to shut down the make-shift greenspace and reopen Monument Circle to traffic. 

“We have got to be proactive and creative in repurposing spaces that we have downtown to make it attractive to live, as well as work, shop and play in our downtown core,” Shreve said on Oct. 23. 

A more recent addition to Shreve’s advertisement campaign is a focus on mental health. When the topic was brought up on Oct. 23, Hogsett affirmed that his administration has put time and money into taking care of Indianapolis residents’ mental health. 

“I’m proud that in the last several years of the Hogsett administration we have increased our funding for mental health and mental health access by three times,” Hogsett said. 

Last year, Hogsett introduced a $2 million plan to create a team of clinicians that would respond to mental health-related 911 calls. The program was approved only a few months after it was proposed, but Shreve argues that this is not enough. 

“I will advocate and draft a budget as mayor that will invest materially more in mental health,” Shreve said during the debate on Oct 23. 

Election day is Nov. 7, and poll locations can be found online.


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