Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

Will this be the year of the Black mayor in Indiana?

Near and far there were some interesting developments across the state when it came to voters and their support for Black candidates for mayor in Indiana.

More close to home, Jamar Cobb-Dennard, a recent McKinney law school graduate, pulled out the victory in the Democratic primary in Lawrence and will face incumbent Republican Steve Collier in the general election.

Jamar Cobb-Dennard may make history as the first Black mayor of Lawrence if he prevails in the general election.

A little up the road, Terri Whitt Bailey won the Democratic primary for mayor of Muncie. Bailey made history becoming the first Black candidate to win the nomination in Muncie. She will face Republican Dan Ridenour.

In Gary, Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince beat out two-time incumbent Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in the Democratic mayoral primary.

Freeman-Wilson had already made history as the woman to serve as mayor of Gary and the first Black woman mayor in Indiana.

Locally, with 100% of precincts reporting there was an 8.63% turnout (unofficial).

Democrats nearly doubled turnout over Republicans, as was to be expected given the number of contested races on the Democratic ballot.

This was also the first election where we used voting centers, which added to the convenience of voting as voters could go to any voting location to cast a ballot.

As we’ve reported earlier, the Republican Party did not field candidates in all of the city-county council districts and may select candidates to compete in the general election later this summer.

The low turnout does raise the question why does the county cover the bill for political parties’ elections?

The other issue which we will likely see in the mayoral race between incumbent and Democrat Mayor Joe Hogsett, Republican Sen. Jim Merritt, Libertarian Douglas McNaughton and potentially independent John Schmitz is how does political party influence policy if at all?

Is there really a Democratic or Republican way of running a city?

Are partisan primaries a relic of the past?

Does Marion County, or even the state of Indiana need to do away with partisan primaries?

At a minimum, I think there should be a conversation.

Expect a hiatus on the local campaign front until about Labor Day, when the campaign season will pick up again.

In the meantime, I hope the candidates do find a way to develop policy contrasts.

There may not be a Democratic and Republican way to fill a pothole, but our city is facing some challenges that didn’t happen overnight, but call for a vigorous debate and engagement.

The Indianapolis mayor has more influence than most mayors in the country of education. Beyond running charter schools there is the question of whether a consolidation of services such as food, transportation and even special education might be beneficial for the county.

There is also the issue of the racial achievement gap. What kind of convening leadership might a mayor provide in this area?

Does it continue to make sense to have nine townships in Marion County, or should we finish the work of Uni-Gov?

The city struggles with food deserts and food swamps. Generally when markets fail government or the non-profit sector step up.

The Hogsett administration has had some success in this area but the problem remains daunting.

Even if non-profits, co-ops or even the private sector develop responses what responsibility does local government have on this issue food insecurity?

Like most cities in the US, we are struggling with social mobility. And again, there aren’t easy answers to this issue but out of the box thinking can a mayor bring to this problem?

As I’ve probably revealed, I’m not interested in a mayoral candidate that has a limited view of the role of government to help people.

Having worked in local government, I appreciate the reality that often government is not the answer, but I do think visionary leaders can convene and inspire by laying out where we could be as a city.

I want a vigorous debate over the future of the city.

And that vision has to be more than about potholes and hiring police officers.

What I’m hearing …

People have already begun talking about IPS school board seats.

I would expect the school board races to receive heightened attention given the discussion on racial achievement gaps throughout the county.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Lisa Borges granted bond for William Allen, a man who was arrested for attempting to kill a police officer.

Steve Jefferson with WTHR reports that Allen has a lengthy criminal record in four states and is a registered violent sexual predator.

Allen is white.

See you next week …

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at

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