Importantville: Merritt For Mayor

What’s happening—and what’s next—at the intersection of politics and business in Indiana?

Illustration by Kris Davidson

Welcome to Really Importantville. It’s day 20 of the federal government shutdown. In Monday’s edition, I asked how Sen. Todd Young’s NRSC Chair turn would benefit Indiana in 2019. A smart reader messaged me: “It already has,” pointing to Young’s appointment on the powerful Finance committee as evidence.

Buckle up for a bumpy mayoral race. Send tips and story ideas to

NEW: Republican state Senator Jim Merritt launched his campaign to challenge to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett today at at the now-defunct Happy Brewing Company in the Butler Tarkington neighborhood. Merritt has long criticized Hogsett on issues ranging from potholes and infrastructure to ribbon cutting attendance and the city’s homicide rate.

REMEMBER: Merritt lost Marion County last November by nine points. He has $140 in his campaign account. Hogsett has $3 million.

FROM THE INDY STAR: “Longtime Joe Hogsett critic Jim Merritt is expected to enter race for Indianapolis mayor”—James Briggs and Kaitlin Lange:

A critic of Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett, Merritt spent months discussing a possible run while also holding the political job of Marion County Republican Party chairman. Merritt resigned as GOP chairman Dec. 14, saying he wanted to “take my time and make a decision” on the mayor’s race.

He appears to have reached a decision. Merritt is scheduled to speak at noon in the city’s Butler Tarkington neighborhood, an area that has generated headlines for overcoming violent crime, in part through grassroots activism.

“We’re trying to talk about the city in transition, and Butler Tarkington seems like a good spot to start talking about my political future,” Merritt said in an interview Wednesday.

TIM SWARENS, WRITING IN THE STAR: “Jim Merritt, in running for mayor, gives Indianapolis the debate it needs”: “A key selling point of Merritt’s candidacy will be the political and personal relationships he’s built in the Republican-dominated Statehouse. That shouldn’t be discounted. Indy will need state help to fix its budget problems and to make sustainable progress on other challenges such as poverty and broken infrastructure.”

A Democrat messages: “A 28-year legislative record is a very tough thing to run on or run away from.” Merritt voted for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but also championed its so-called legislative fix.

MARION COUNTY DEMOCRATS FRAME THE RACE—FROM KATE SWEENEY BELL: “Senator Jim Merritt, the longest-serving State Senator of the Indiana General Assembly, is preparing to enter the Indianapolis mayor’s race today, and his recent role as partisan attack dog will present a formidable establishment challenge to his three outsider Republican opponents. Unfortunately for Senator Merritt, his voting record and policy positions will also present a formidable challenge with Indianapolis voters. From support for President Trump to a vote for now-infamous RFRA legislation, Senator Merritt has consistently embraced views over the last three decades at the Statehouse that are out of step with the city he wants to represent.”

WHERE’S VEEP? He meets with Congress at 11 a.m., then gaggles with Hill reporters at noon.

HAPPENING TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Gov. Eric Holcomb’s budget proposal surfaces in committee. Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray will hold a media availability after adjournment. Speaker of the House Brian Bosma will also hold an avail.

BRAUN’S NATIONAL MEDIA BLITZ: In the last week or so, Sen. Mike Braun has sat for an interview with The Washington Post, in which he called out Sen. Mitt Romney, given an exclusive to Breitbart and will appear on CBS’ Major Garrett’s The Takeout’s Friday episode. The tack is quite different from fellow Republican Sen. Todd Young, who kept his head down during much of his first year in the Senate. Last May, Braun told CNN’s Eric Bradner he wanted to be in leadership. Maybe he sees a national profile as the fast track to leadership?

STATE OF THE STATE: Gov. Eric Holcomb will deliver his annual address on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. What will he say about


Like millions of Americans, I watched the president’s Oval Office address from my living room.

I’m on the younger side, but I’ve seen five presidents over the years address the American people in prime time. The first news event I understood as a small child was the loss of the space shuttle Challenger, which President Reagan eloquently mourned from the Oval that evening. I remember seeing Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama address the nation on matters of war and peace.

Presidents going live from the Oval Office have used that platform to inform the American public, and also to do one of the most important parts of their job: to inspire the best in us.

This time is different. We saw a president use a humanitarian problem on the Southern border, one that he himself created, to justify keeping the government shut down — in order to demand a policy most Americans believe is wrong. That is not how the presidency is supposed to work.

Read more here.

WHAT BUTTIGIEG IS READING: “South Bend receives $5,000 grant from Domino’s Pizza to fill potholes,” by Mary Shown in the South Bend Tribune.

Many residents feel the city has the worst pothole situation in the state.

So many, in fact, that they reached out to Domino’s Pizza to do something about it. And Domino’s agreed.

On Monday, the national pizza company announced the city of South Bend will receive a $5,000 “Paving for Pizza” Grant to fill in potholes.

GOP RESPONSE: “If Part-Time Pete Buttigieg spent as much time fixing issues in South Bend as he does running for President, Domino’s Pizza wouldn’t have to take matters into their own hands and fix the city’s pothole mess,” said RNC Spokesperson Michael Joyce in a statement. “Part-Time Pete’s failed leadership is clearly keeping South Bend out of the upper crust, so why is he even thinking about running for President?”

Importantville Reads

Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post: “Everyone’s talking about Beto and Biden. But here’s another ‘B’ you should know.

The race for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2020 is already underway. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) announced her exploratory committee last week. Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro (Tx.) is expected to be next. And everyone is waiting on Beto and Biden. That’s former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Tx.) and former vice president Joe Biden (Del.). But there’s another “B” you’ll be talking about very soon. No, not him!

The week I got into the race in 2011, we were characterized as a dying city by Newsweek,” Buttigieg told me about his first run for mayor of South Bend, before explaining why it was critical for his industrial city to move beyond the heartbreak of the closing of the Studebaker factoriesin 1963. “Even though I was born 20 years after Studebaker closed, my entire life, the city was wrestling with that past,” recounted Buttigieg. “And, ironically, the only way that we could capture the energy of the people who created this very innovative economy in South Bend in the early 20th century was not to look back at them, but to emulate their focus on the future.”

The Sunday Show

On this week’s edition of IN Focus: Interviews with Sen. Todd Young, Sen. Mike Braun, Rep. Andre Carson on the ongoing government shutdown, plus the latest news from the Statehouse and the Indy mayoral race. Panelists: Tony Samuel, Christina Hale, Mike Murphy and Robin Winston. Airs at 8:30am Sunday on CBS4, 9:30am on FOX59.

Days to Mayoral Election: 299

Days to 2020 Election: 663

That’s all for today. Go Colts.