IN Focus: Merritt talks potholes, politics, race for mayor

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Everybody gets mad about potholes in Indianapolis… everybody. But nobody seems madder about them than Jim Merritt.

"I mean look at that, cones that are in the potholes themselves, so you avoid them...in the potholes!" said Merritt.

Merritt doesn’t blame the Indianapolis weather. Instead, he blames the city’s mayor.

“It does make me mad, because it could have been avoided,” said Merritt.

Jim Merritt’s political career is now closely tied to the condition of Indy’s pockmarked streets. The long-time Republican state legislator is running for mayor against incumbent Joe Hogsett and potholes are issue number one.

"We're really have a difficult time because there was no preventative maintenance, we just didn't prepare for this,” said Merritt.

Merritt doesn’t give specifics on how he would maintain the streets better than Hogsett, at least not yet. But he is convinced that he could do a better job.

"You know what? Right now it's just not good enough, we deserve better,” said Merritt.

Potholes aren’t the only problem Merritt says he can solve in the city. He says city leaders have failed to address the root causes of violence that have sent the murder rates soaring.

Merritt himself faces another potential campaign issue, namely his past opposition of a hate crimes law and his past support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"With RFRA and with hate crimes, you evolve and I don't think people mind when you change your mind, not flip flop but actually understand where people are coming from for it,” said Merritt.

Merritt and Hogsett actually went to Indiana University together. They were fraternity brothers. So, it’s no surprise Merritt says his campaign isn’t personal.

"No, this is not about Joe Hogsett, this is about leadership, this is about how we did things with Lugar, how we did things with Hudnut, and how we did things with Goldsmith.”

On the pothole issue, Hogsett's team recently issued the following statement:

"Mayor Joe Hogsett has worked with bipartisan Council majorities to tackle chronically underfunded city services... Mayor Joe dramatically increased road and infrastructure funding, including more than 400 million dollars that will be spent over the next four years."

Hogsett also took a ride with CBS4 recently to talk about the potholes, crime in the city, and his campaign for re-election.

And on the issue of hate crimes, Merritt issued this statement after voting for the hate crimes bill that was just signed into law by Gov. Holcomb:

“As leaders and representatives of Hoosier citizens, our foremost goal must be to improve our communities. Sometimes, those improvements need to take place as a series of steps in order to build consensus,” he said. “While I may be criticized for voting for this less-than perfect legislation, I believe in choosing progress over total inaction. This is an important and meaningful step toward crafting long-term laws that definitively protect all Hoosiers from crimes committed on the wholly unacceptable basis of hate and intolerance... Unfortunately, I was disappointed that Mayor Hogsett and his administration chose not to testify in favor of this very important bill."

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