Independent for mayor chases petition deadline

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Masonry contractor John Schmitz stalked a hot patch of Marion County Fairground asphalt under a scorching sun Sunday afternoon in a sweat-drenched gray t-shirt that announced his intentions to run for mayor of Indianapolis if he can get a few thousand registered voters to agree and sign his petitions.

“We’re at about eight thousand right now,” he said. “We need 6106, but voter registration has thrown out about 30% of our signatures for various reasons, so we’re trying to get well over that so they won’t have an excuse to keep me off the ballot.”

Schmitz has until noon Monday to turn in the signatures and squeeze into a race that pits incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, against his Republican challenger State Senator Jim Merritt.

“I’m not a career politician,” intoned Schmitz who said he will rely on his contracting expertise to run the city if he wins. “What we have now is two fraternity brothers from IU that they’re running against each other just like its championship wrestling. It’s just somebody’s gonna win.”

Schmitz thinks he’s that somebody, though his resume is restricted to creating a community arts center in Mars Hill and volunteering with homeless outreach organizations.

“I need to convince people that I can do this work and I would love to have four more months to lay out my plans and to do this.”

Schmitz convinced Christine Coulter to sign his petition.

“I agree that he has every right to run. He should have a chance to run. I know that he’s the underdog but the underdog should get a chance to run,” she said. “This is America.”

Schmitz said he had to fight to secure booth space at the back of the Fairgrounds to stump for signatures at this summer’s Marion County Fair.

His tent was nestled between the display for the Fountain Square American Legion Post and a hot dog stand.

“He’s an underdog and let’s give him a chance and listen to what he has to say,” said Post Commander Thomas Tichenor who spent six years in the U.S. Navy defending the underdog’s right to petition his grievances to the government and run for mayor if he wants. “You know the underdog can still prevail. It’s just that the people gotta get behind him.”

Lajeune Williams, a social worker by profession, got behind Schmitz’ dream enough to sign her name on a petition.

“You gotta get in it first to even make a difference and I think if he has a lot more of these one-on-ones or at least some townhalls and have some conversations and tell others why he wants to be mayor and what his plan is, I think that will work for him,” she said. “That’s a great idea to be able to not have the same mindset and to see things a little bit differently.”

Hogsett reported $3.8 million on hand in his campaign re-election fund in April.

Merritt lagged behind with $223,000 in the bank and had a Marion County Republican party tent at the front gate of the fair that had lots of candidates’ signs but few people.

Schmitz said his campaign slogan is, “Do Something.” He describes himself as a libertarian on limited government who believes in community-based solutions to crime and would tell his police chief to overlook minor marijuana possession arrests.

“We need to rely on people in our community,” Schmitz said. “When I say, ‘I’m running for mayor,’ it’s really, ‘We’re running for mayor.’”

Schmitz said he will be on Lugar Plaza outside the City County Building Monday morning collecting the final petition signatures he needs to win a place on the November ballot.

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