Indianapolis mayoral candidates agree to 2 public forums

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The race for Indianapolis mayor is headed to neighborhoods.

Incumbent Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, and challenger Jim Merritt, a Republican who serves as a state senator, had agreed to two public forums as of Tuesday, Merritt is asking for nine debates: one in every township. 

Merritt’s campaign has scheduled four forums and invited Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to attend. Hogsett’s campaign had agreed to two forums, it told News 8 on Tuesday.

Chris Straab has lived on the east side of Indianapolis most of his life. He has a front-row seat to redevelopment in the area. Straab said his neighborhood still needs help, and he would like to hear what the mayoral candidates have in mind.

“Well, it is very important because the community needs to be educated on what both candidates have to say. If we don’t have a forum and the candidates aren’t educated, aren’t informed, then it kind of leaves an empty void of, ‘Who do I choose?’” said Straab.

Straab said the east side needs mom-and-pop shops, and for someone to take a stand on crime, roads and abandoned houses.

Merritt was on the eastside Tuesday and said his campaign has reached out to hundreds of neighborhood associations with an offer to meet Hogsett and talk about the issues.

“Really believe that transparency, we really believe the city of Indianapolis deserves debates. They deserve transparency. They deserve to know what the future of Indianapolis looks like,” said Merritt.

So far, both campaigns have agreed to meet once in September with the Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis, an organization of about 30 neighborhood associations spread throughout the city.

Garry Chilluffo, president of HUNI, said he began talking to both candidates weeks ago.

“Yes it is civil,” he said, laughing. “And we invite the public, and we open it up and let the public ask questions, so the question gets asked, and each candidate gets a chance to answer it, but it is not debate per se,” said Chilluffo.

A statement from the Hogsett campaign says in part:

We welcome Senator Merritt to this ongoing community conversation and look forward to the Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis forum, as well as other neighborhood-focused events in the coming months. 

The first meeting with both candidates is scheduled for Sept. 19 as a 90-minute open forum with questions from the public. The second is on Sept. 25 and is not a debate but an opportunity for each candidate to talk for 30 minutes about the homelessness issue in the city. 

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