Carmel mayoral candidates get combative in zinger-filled debate
The Carmel mayoral race turned combative as Republican Sue Finkam and Democrat Miles Nelson sought to define each other Monday during a zinger-filled debate in front of about 1,000 people at the Palladium at the Center for Performing Arts.
Why it matters: The two Carmel City Council rivals are jockeying for a once-in-a-generation opportunity as Republican Mayor Jim Brainard leaves office after seven terms.
The big picture: The race has gained national attention as a bellwether for Democrats' suburban competitiveness.
The intrigue: Nelson hitched his candidacy closely to Brainard's record — perhaps even more closely than Finkam — assuring voters he would follow in the footsteps of the pro-growth, pro-development mayor.
- "I want to build on Mayor Brainard's legacy and his vision and keep Carmel moving forward," Nelson said.
Between the lines: Nelson distinguished himself from Finkam primarily on social issues, often bringing up Moms for Liberty, the activist group pushing suburban schools rightward and which recently quoted Adolf Hitler in a Hamilton County newsletter.
- Nelson asked Finkam to denounce Moms for Liberty on the stage and she declined.
- "My opponent feels that she needs the support of Moms for Liberty to win this election," Nelson said.
Meanwhile, Finkam compared Nelson's focus on social issues to a magician working the audience through misdirection, dubbing him with a Trumpian nickname, "Magic Miles."
- "He's trying to deceive you as he's talking about attacks on our schools and Moms for Liberty because he's hoping to make you forget that he has no experience to be mayor," Finkam said. "He's had no impact as a city councilor and he has no plan."
Context: Finkam, the owner of a marketing and public relations firm, was elected to the council in 2012 and has twice been council president, while Nelson runs an executive search firm and is in his first term on the council.
What they're saying: Finkam presented herself as the proven choice steeped in Carmel government, touting a 57-point policy plan, while Nelson argued the election is about "leadership and vision."
- Nelson: "As mayor, I will continue to be outspoken, making sure that this will be no place for hate, no place for discrimination."
- Finkam: "You need someone who has the experience and the business know-how to go after this to get it done. And I'm obviously that candidate in this race."
What's next: Early voting begins Oct. 11 and Election Day is Nov. 7.
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