Apr 18, 2023 - Politics

Hogsett's re-election runs into Shreve's money

A collection of campaign mailers from Republican mayoral candidate Jefferson Shreve.

Republican Jefferson Shreve has spent $1.4 million on his Indianapolis mayoral campaign, enough money to send a lot of mailers. Photo: James Briggs/Axios

A wealthy Republican is shattering campaign spending records in a bid to become mayor in blue-leaning Indianapolis.

Driving the news: Jefferson Shreve spent $1.4 million from February through April 7, per a campaign finance report filed Friday, blanketing the city with campaign mailers and TV and radio ads.

Why it matters: No one has burned money on this scale in an Indianapolis mayoral primary before.

  • The seven-figure splash has transformed the municipal election cycle from a sleepy coronation for Mayor Joe Hogsett's third term to a test of whether money can overcome Republicans' demographic disadvantage.

State of play: Shreve, a businessman who last year sold his self-storage company Storage Express for $590 million, is running a crime-focused campaign, seizing on the city's unprecedented streak of 200-plus annual homicides.

  • Republicans Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, James Jackson and John Couch are also running in the May 2 primary.
  • Hogsett, a Democrat, faces challenges from state Rep. Robin Shackleford and activist Clif Marsiglio.

Between the lines: Marion County Republicans have longed for a rich, self-funding candidate to reclaim the mayor's office after two failed election cycles.

  • Shreve has given his campaign $2 million and raised $74,000 from other sources.

Be smart: Shreve's spending dominance and Hogsett's incumbency position them as the most likely candidates to face off in November's general election.

  • It could be a lopsided race in terms of money. Shreve is on pace to spend $10 million through November — doubling Hogsett's record-setting mayoral campaign expenditure of $5.2 million in 2019.

By the numbers: Other candidates haven't come close to spending as much as Shreve.

  • Hogsett spent $160,000 through April 7.
  • Shackleford has spent about $45,319, Shabazz $11,319 and Jackson $8,366.

Of note: Shreve already has committed to spending $1.4 million on TV and radio ads through April.

What they're saying: "Yes, I'm spending money," Shreve tells Axios. "I think this is a differentiator between what we have seen in prior primaries. I think, to be tenable, a candidate has to come out in the primary and begin to build that message."

Yes, but: Shreve declined to specify his spending strategy to Axios, saying, "I'm not going to tell you that. Why the hell would I?"

The other side: Hogsett told Axios that he thinks Shreve is an "extraordinarily successful businessperson" and a "very, very serious guy."

  • "But I think maybe the lesson that we may ultimately learn is money doesn't buy you everything," Hogsett said. "You've got to have something besides money and that's what I hope I bring to this race, is the ability to connect with people."
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