Mayor Tom Henry's resounding victory in Fort Wayne's mayoral race rightly received the spotlight, but there were other fascinating results in Tuesday's election.
Next year's City Council will feature its most diverse membership ever. The nine-member council will include three black members (up from one), two of whom are women (up from none). This is good for democracy.
Just as district representation helps ensure that all regions of the city are heard from, gender and racial diversity encourages wider approaches to the city's problems and needs. That doesn't mean the council has to depend on Sharon Tucker and Michelle Chambers to articulate a “women's viewpoint,” or that Tucker, Chambers and Glynn Hines will speak as one voice on issues of concern to the black community. But life experiences are affected by gender and other demographic factors. With more diversity, it is more likely the council will hear arguments and proposals that don't always align with the way white, male members may view the world. And it means that women and African American residents who observe or speak at meetings will see people who look like them at the council table.
The South Bend Common Council will soon have a majority of women members for the first time in its history. Two councilwomen were reelected Tuesday, and three other women will be sworn in in January.
Maybe this diversity thing is catching on.
Aside from the demographic changes to the Fort Wayne council, look for a major shift in dynamics. With John Crawford's decision to – unsuccessfully – seek the GOP nomination for mayor and Michael Barranda's defeat,Republicans emerge with a one-seatmajority, leaving them one vote shy of the six needed to override a mayoral veto.
More important is that Republicans Tom Didier and Tom Freistroffer gain considerable clout with the shift. Both are more centrist than GOP colleagues Jason Arp, Paul Ensley and Russ Jehl, having supported the mayor's position on multiple issues. Look for their votes to determine the outcome of the most partisan votes on the new council and for each to play major roles in brokering deals between Republican and Democratic members.
Crawford's loss also will be felt. His no-nonsense approach to tackling fiscal challenges served taxpayers well. His leadership in the six-month process to increase the local income tax to support riverfront development and sidewalk and alley improvements is Exhibit A.
From the public forum he organized at the start of the process to the compromise measures that secured the 6-3 vote, Crawford's willingness to take the lead on a tax hike was a display of political courage.
Eric Doden, former CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., wasn't on the ballot Tuesday, but he surely was an Election Day loser.
Doden was an early and vocal supporter of Tim Smith, backing him not only financially, but with also with a self-published book targeting Henry's reelection campaign. “Turning Rust to Gold: Fort Wayne's Fight for Revival” portrayed the mayor as anobstacle to the city's progress and Doden as a key to its success.
The former president of the Indiana Economic Development Commission has made it no secret he intends to run for governor in 2024, but his second unsuccessful foray into Fort Wayne city politics (he lost a bid for the GOP nomination for mayor in 2011) does not bode well for a statewide run.
In an email headlined “Indiana GOP Establishes All-Time Record With70 Mayoral Wins,” the party celebrates flipping 19 mayorships around the state, including “in traditional Democrat strongholds Kokomo, Muncie, Logansport and Michigan City.”
Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer said, “It was a historic night for Republicans throughout Indiana.”
Indeed, as the release noted, Republicans now control 23 more mayorships than Democrats.
However, there is no mention in the email of Democrat Henry's win here, or of Democrat James Mueller's win in South Bend. Or of Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett's victory over Jim Merritt, head of the Republican caucus in the Indiana Senate, in the Indianapolis mayor's race. Nor of the Democrats picking up six seats in the 25-member Indianapolis City Council. Nor of Democratic victories in three city council races in the Republican stronghold of Hamilton County. There was mention of Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, who won a third term unopposed, but nothing about city council races there, where Democrats won seven of the nine seats.
That kind of spin can make you dizzy.