By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - We’re a month out from mayoral elections and at this point, we do not detect a significant change wave as we’ve seen in past cycles that ousted more than a dozen mayors. There is little polling data available, so our assessments are based on past history, who’s advertising and how the various candidates and campaigns are acting.

City halls most likely to see a party change include New Albany, where Republican Mark Seabrook is challenging Mayor Jeff Gahan; the open seat in Kokomo, with Republican Howard County Commissioner Tyler Moore facing Democrat Abbie Smith; and another open seat in Elkhart where former Republican mayor Dave Miller is facing Democrat Rod Roberson after Republican Mayor Tim Neese decided not to seek a second term.

Another race we are closely watching is Fort Wayne, where Mayor Tom Henry is seeking to fend off the energetic Republican challenger Tim Smith, who tells HPI that his campaign metrics have brought more than 4,000 new voters into the race. Henry has been running a TV ad campaign since August and we still give him a narrow edge. In Muncie, Republican Dan Ridenour has a shot at shifting that city hall in his race against Terry Whitt Bailey, who could become the city’s first African-American mayor. But there are more FBI investigations underway in Muncie, a dynamic that has plagued Mayor Dennis Tyler’s administration, giving Ridenour a chance for that party switch.

We continue to see Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett as a nominal favorite while Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and South Bend Democrat James Mueller are heavy favorites.

In Indianapolis, Mayor Joe Hogsett remains a heavy favorite for a second term. He began running his first 60-second ad of the cycle titled “Mothers Against Violence” and featuring Donita Royal, who lost a son to gun violence. It began airing two weeks after six people were shot downtown on a Saturday night. “What I love about Mayor Hogsett – he’s a man of faith,” Royal says. “And my spirit connects with that.”

The Indy Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee (BAC) endorsed Hogsett. “Our city’s economy is stronger when more of our citizens are able to contribute to it,” said Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber.  “Mayor Hogsett is committed to this ideal of inclusive growth, restructuring local economic incentives to upgrade our job market and launching initiatives like ‘Indy Achieves’ to upskill our workforce, while supporting improved transit to connect people and employers.”

Muncie: Hupfer pitches for Ridenour

Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer was in Muncie this week making a pitch for Republican mayoral nominee Dan Ridenour, who faces Democrat Terry Whitt Bailey. “Muncie is a great city – home to a world-class university, great local businesses, and fantastic people. But it’s also an excellent example of what happens when you let Democrats run your government,” Hupfer said. “In case you haven’t been following, the FBI has been investigating Muncie for years, and this summer, they searched Muncie City Hall and ended up handing down two indictments. It’s a betrayal of the public trust, but sadly, Muncie’s problems under Democrats only begin there. This week a state audit broke news that city accounts are overdrawn by more than $250,000. It’s fiscal mismanagement, and it’s irresponsible.”

Indianapolis: Hogsett’s big ad advantage

Mayor Joe Hogsett continues a huge TV advantage, spending more than $2 million, compared to less than $90,000 for Republican Jim Merritt’s campaign. Merritt’s TV ad where he said that car thieves and grifters benefitted from the incumbent ran less than two weeks. Hogstt has two TV ads in rotation.

Terre Haute: Trio debates

It was standing room only at the Vigo County Public Library on Tuesday as three candidates for Terre Haute mayor outlined their positions on a host of topics. But as a baseline from which to start, the candidates were asked to define what they see as the role of mayor and the office’s most important function in city governance (Modesitt, Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Republican candidate and incumbent mayor Duke Bennett said, as he has maintained across numerous forums in the past month, that a mayor’s number one priority is ensuring the safety of the city. “Public safety is number one. No matter what anybody says, that is the most important thing that we can deliver to keep people safe and respond when they have an urgent need,” Bennett said.

Independent candidate Pat Goodwin said the role of mayor is being the face of the city and ensuring that everything undertaken with taxpayer money is something that will benefit the city and its residents in the long run. Democrat candidate and City Council member Karrum Nasser said he views the mayor’s job as one of customer service and that he is open to borrowing successful strategies from neighboring communities and tapping into the talent graduating from local universities and colleges to help implement them. “People need to trust their government. Often times we hear that something is too complicated or that it’s how we’ve always done it. I think the citizens deserve to have a better answer than that when it comes to some of the challenges in our community.”

Fort Wayne: Crawford’s wife in Henry ad

The wife of Republican Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford has been featured in an advertisement supporting Democratic Mayor Tom Henry’s reelection campaign. The campaign video, which aired on TV and was posted to the Henry campaign Facebook page, is titled “Republicans for Mayor Tom Henry” and features two Republicans and an independent. One of the Republicans is Marcia Crawford (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). In the video, Crawford states that she is supporting Henry “because he works for all parties, making sure the neighborhoods are thriving, businesses are investing and our young people are staying in Fort Wayne, living, working and raising their families here.” Henry is running against Republican Tim Smith in the Nov. 5 general election. The other two featured in the video are Ryan Neumeister and independent John Dortch, who said Henry is “positive and has a real plan for moving our city forward.” John Crawford said his wife’s appearance in the ad was her choice. “You don’t tell modern women what to do. They tell you what they are going to do,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I gave her no direction one way or another; it was her decision.”

Henry, Smith spar over education 

Republican mayoral candidate Tim Smith pledged Monday morning to send more public money to area public and private schools and teachers (Rodriguez, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). During a news conference at Republican headquarters in Fort Wayne, Smith laid out a six-point platform containing his positions to aid education – while chastising Democratic Mayor Tom Henry for inaction. “The mayor has said he has no role in education. I fundamentally disagree,” Smith said. Smith acknowledged later that, “constitutionally speaking,” Henry’s statement is correct. Henry, in a statement, reiterated the point. “I do question whether my opponent is running for mayor or the Indiana General Assembly as Fort Wayne’s mayor has no direct authority over public schools,” the statement says. “Knowing my legal limitations as Fort Wayne’s Mayor, I will continue to pave sidewalks to schools like we just completed at St. Joseph Elementary; continue to staff our schools with Fort Wayne Police Officers like we have done throughout my tenure; continue the Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council which introduces young people to government; and, continue to foster those valued partnerships with our educational friends from the FWCS Career Academy to our universities, our vocational schools to organized labor.”

South Bend: Mueller debates Haas

If you think politicians are all the same, you haven’t seen Democrat James Mueller and Republican Sean Haas debate. Although they’re both 37, wore gray suits with white shirts and ties, and grew up on the city’s east side, attending St. Anthony de Padua Catholic grade school together, they contrasted sharply Tuesday night at Indiana University South Bend’s Wiekamp Hall in their only debate before the Nov. 5 South Bend mayoral election (Parrott, South Bend Tribune). Haas criticized Mayor Pete Buttigieg, under whom Mueller served as chief of staff and executive director of community investment, for saying after a shooting that, “All police work and all of American life takes place in the shadow of racism…” Haas said officer morale has tanked because police believe O’Neill, who has since quit, has been prejudged without due process. “I don’t believe in systemic racism. I believe there are bad actors in every single profession, whether it’s police officers, teachers, lawyers, but to blanketly call an entire force racist based on the action of a few, I believe, is irresponsible and frankly a lie.” Mueller said racism can be more nuanced and “is not always explicit, not always necessarily explicitly hateful. It comes about in implicit ways. You’re less likely to get a bank loan approved… you go to the doctor and they’re less likely to take your pain seriously because you’re a certain race.”

Zody calls on Holcomb to denounce  Greencastle council candidate

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody demanded Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Republican Party call on GOP Greencastle city council candidate Haywood Ware to apologize for racist, transphobic and Islamophobic messages. Zody believed Holcomb needs to set an example as the leader of the Indiana Republican Party and call on Ware to terminate his campaign immediately. “It’s time for Eric Holcomb to stand by his words and denounce Republicans who threaten Indiana’s reputation as a welcoming place,” said Zody. “We should hold politicians to the highest standard. There’s no place for Ware’s hateful speech on the city council in Greencastle. Eric Holcomb needs to lead by calling on Ware to apologize and resign.”

General Assembly

HD45: Primary opponent for Borders

Jeff Gormong, 52, announced he will challenge Rep. Bruce Borders in the Republican primary (Modesitt, Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Gormong, a farmer in southern Vigo County, said his decision to run is not an indictment of the job he thinks Borders has done. “This is something I’m passionate about and think I can do well,” Gormong said. “I talked to Mr. Borders before making this announcement to let him know I’d be running and that I’m not upset with him but just wanted to give this a shot. I think it’s time for some change.” Gormong, manager of Gormong Family Farms, has served on the Indiana Farm Bureau state board of directors since 2008.