Aug 7, 2023 - Politics
Market Street

Shreve, Hogsett travel different roads in Indianapolis mayor's race

Jefferson Shreve talks to a woman after a press conference in a Broad Ripple bar.

Republican mayoral candidate Jefferson Shreve talks to a supporter after an announcement in Broad Ripple. Photo: James Briggs/Axios

As the Indianapolis mayoral campaign creeps toward fall, one question looms: What is Republican Jefferson Shreve getting for his money?

Driving the news: Shreve bought about another $1 million in ads in July, per FCC records, piling up spending on a campaign that could double Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett's likely $5 million budget.

  • Hogsett spent about $677,000 on TV ads in July.

Why it matters: It's by far the most expensive mayoral campaign in Indianapolis history — yet, it seems as sleepy as other recent municipal cycles.

What's happening: The biggest campaign news last week was a hard-to-follow story in which Shreve sent cease-and-desist letters to TV stations asserting a Hogsett ad "contains false, misleading, and defamatory content" — not exactly a town talker.

Between the lines: There are few indications — and no polling — to show whether Shreve's spending is moving the needle.

What I'm watching: Shreve received more than triple the Google searches of Hogsett last month in Indianapolis, per Google Trends, but that could be because Shreve is lesser known than Hogsett, not necessarily a result of ad spending.

Meanwhile, Hogsett — well-funded, but out of Shreve's financial league — competes on the campaign trail by savoring hugs, handshakes and the occasional absurdity that comes with being mayor.

One campaign stop in April veered into "Parks and Recreation"-level farce as Hogsett appeared at a Little League baseball kickoff.

  • As league organizers introduced a series of speakers and sponsors and repositioned players for photos and the national anthem, Hogsett stood captive in midday heat for more than a half hour.
  • He smiled and walked off to several more hours of campaigning.

The intrigue: Hogsett strives to attend more events, and meet more people, than any mayor in Indianapolis history.

  • Shreve, friendly yet solemn, is playing a different game.

What he's saying: "Mayor Hogsett is a superior retail politician. I will spend my days working on things in different ways than he does," Shreve told me last month.

The bottom line: Shreve sold his self-storage company last year for $590 million and now he's pouring that money into a campaign organization in which he is chief executive.

  • The next three months will show whether Shreve's shrewd instinct for return on investment extends to politics.

Market Street is a regular column about local politics and power. Send me tips: [email protected].

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