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Your Vote 2023: As Carmel goes, so goes the state?

All Indiana Politics breaks down important races

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The race for mayor of Indianapolis is getting most of the headlines, but many of the state’s political insiders are watching a competition just a few miles north.

All Indiana Politics panelists from the left and the right actually agree: The race for mayor of Carmel offers an important early view of the next election cycle.

“I think that it is gonna be the bellwether of what happens in the state,” Indiana Young Democrats President Arielle Brandy told viewers during a Daybreak interview Tuesday.

No matter who wins the vote, Carmel is poised to have a new leader for the first time since 1996, when Republican Jim Brainard first won the office.

The city’s voting history suggests Republican Sue Finkham is the heavy favorite for the job, but the campaign of Miles Nelson has fueled optimism in his party that other Democrats failed to muster against Brainard.

Brainard often had no opposition in general elections, so the Republican primary frequently served as the ‘de facto’ election – much as is the case this year in neighboring communities Westfield, Fishers, and Noblesville.

A strong election day showing by Nelson would further boost the theory that Hamilton County is no longer solidly red and is instead politically “purple.” That conversation first took flight in 2020, when post-election analysis showed that Carmel voters favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the Presidential race.

“It was just a decade ago that the thought of having a Democratic slate run in Hamilton County was something that you just never thought was going to happen,” said Brandy.

Whitley Yates, director of diversity and engagement for the Indiana Republican Party, is watching Carmel closely, too. She agrees that it may offer a view of trends moving forward, but casts possible changes as being less about changing sentiment and more about changing ZIP codes.

“I think when you have Indianapolis run into the gutter, people run into the suburbs and want to live in Hamilton County,” Yates during Daybreak Election Day coverage. “And so what you’re seeing is the flight from democrats and liberals in Indianapolis running to Hamilton County.”