INDIANAPOLIS — Why would the two candidates for mayor of Indianapolis, both self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, raise and spend more than $20 million to capture a job that pays $95,000 a year?
”We talk about Shreve and Hogsett, both incredibly well-funded and very good fundraising candidates,” said University of Indianapolis Political Science Professor Laura Wilson. “A lot of money spent into this race, obviously historic.”
After Joe Hogsett figuratively wiped the floor with GOP challengers in 2015 and 2019, the Republicans turned to multi-millionaire former City-County Councilor Jefferson Shreve, who promised he would spend his own money to make this race competitive.
Last year, Shreve sold his self-storage company for $590 million.
This year, he has financed $13.5 million of the $14.5 million his campaign has raised for the 2023 mayor’s race.
After Shreve himself, the donor with the most faith in the challenger’s chances is former Lilly & Co. CEO John Lechleiter, who has kicked in $129,000.
Hogsett, by contrast, has raised $6.1 million thus far this year, a record-setting amount for the incumbent, with Indiana Pacers Owner Herb Simon and his relatives donating $300,000 and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay writing a check for $25,000 last month.
Other big donors to the Democrat include labor unions and construction company owners likely encouraged by the site of cranes hovering above downtown Indianapolis.
TWG Development, which has recently hosted Hogsett at a pair of high-profile residential property groundbreakings in central Marion County, also supported the mayor with $35,000 in donations.
”I think that does speak well for Hogsett, especially when you see that type of donation and particularly when it’s a group that doesn’t necessarily donate to Democratic candidates,” Wilson said. “If we’re talking about construction or any of those groups, they recognize that Hogsett is the incumbent.”
Shreve, by contrast, doesn’t boast dollar-wise the amount of money Hogsett has raised from modest-size donors.
”Strategically, for people who are going to be giving money, and I think with these groups in particular, they’re looking and they may be hedging their bets, they’re making a decision based on what they’ve already seen happen and what they think will happen,” Wilson said. ”Shreve himself having contributed about 93% of his total dollar amount, he supports his campaign. That is putting his money where his mouth is.
“He’s in it to win, and I think Republicans see this as a coattail effect, a trickledown effect. If Shreve is able to bring out a lot of voters in his favor, that would certainly advantage those Republican candidates that are running for the lower races like the city-county council too.”
Citywide, Republican candidates traditionally capture about 37% of the general vote.
Wilson said that, despite his campaign war chest, saturation ad and mailer coverage, Shreve still needs more non-traditional GOP support to win.
”I think for Shreve, of course, it’s not just enough to get the Republicans because there aren’t enough in Marion County, but to be able to reach out to independents, maybe more moderates and democrats who feel disaffected by Hogsett or feel less compelled to vote for him.”
Both candidates have spent millions of TV ad buys and more on research, strategists and six-figure donations to their respective state political parties.
Shreve and Hogsett will debate on FOX59 Thursday night from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.