Indianapolis Mayor's Race Tops Both Parties' Election Priorities for 2011

By Eric Berman, WIBC 93.1FM Indianapolis

December 31, 2010

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's reelection bid is both parties' top election target in 2011.

As the state's capital and its largest city, Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker says, Indianapolis sets the tone for state relations with municipal government.

And Ballard is one of Republicans' few big-city mayors. He and Terre Haute's Duke Bennett surprised most observers by winning upsets in normally Democratic cities. GOP Chairman Murray Clark says that means an extra commitment to ensuring their reelection, as opposed to the steeper challenge of unseating an incumbent.

But both parties will be trying to pull off that feat in cities where they see opportunity. Republicans hope to recapture the Fort Wayne mayor's office after 12 years. City Councilwoman Liz Brown and Allen County Councilwoman Paula Hughes have already announced their candidacies.

Democratic Mayor Tom Henry hasn't said whether he'll seek a second term.

Democrats are targeting Muncie Mayor Sharon McShurley, who won in 2007 by just 13 votes after a recount. Muncie State Representative Dennis Tyler is seeking the Democratic nomination

In South Bend, the main action is in the Democratic primary, with Mayor Stephen Luecke's announcement he won't run again. Representative Ryan Dvorak, former state treasurer nominee Pete Buttigieg and Saint Joseph County Councilman Mike Hamann are all considering the race. Parker's confident the heavily Democratic city will remain that way regardless of who wins the primary.

Both parties could have spirited contests in Evansville, where Democratic Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel may pass up reelection to run for governor. Vanderburgh County Treasurer Rick Davis is running in the Democratic primary whether Weinzapfel runs or not.

Republicans hope to recapture the Evansville mayor's office after eight years, following a 2010 election in which the GOP ousted longtime Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco in November while winning three of the county's four Indiana House seats, including two previously held by Democrats. They also hold both the county's state Senate seats after winning the district formerly represented by Mount Vernon Democrat Bob Deig.

Parker predicts Democrats will keep city hall whether Weinzapfel runs or not. He says the one House seat still in Democratic hands is the one which covers most of Evansville. Rep. Gail Riecken edged Republican Cheryl Musgrave in that contest by 168 votes, a margin of 1.2 percentage points.

Nine of Indiana's 13 largest cities have Democratic mayors. Parker maintains all except heavily Republican Carmel are within reach.

Democrats control a total of 68 mayors' offices to 48 for Republicans. Franklin Mayor Fred Paris, Bedford's Shawna Girgis and Frankfort's Chris Pippenger are independents.