At a Tuesday evening event for mayoral hopefuls in the Democratic Party’s May 2 primary, moderators from Heading Home of South Central Indiana quizzed the candidates about housing for low-income residents and homelessness.
The hosts also flipped the usual script for part of the event.
Each candidate had submitted one question for the audience to answer on arrival at the venue—Crestmont Boys and Girls Club on the north side of town. The questions were accessible through a QR code that appeared on a handout at the reception table.
Out of the roughly 100 people who attended, 58 responded to the three questions.
Co-moderator Leon Gordon, who is administrative director for Bloomington Housing Authority, reported a perfect 50-50 split for the question submitted by Don Griffin:
Are we as a community scared of being the best at taking care of those that are less fortunate?
From left: Don Griffin, Kwan Wallace, Joe Davis, Susan Sandberg, and Kerry Thomson.
From left: Don Griffin, Kwan Wallace, and Joe Davis.
From left: Kira Richardson, Jim Sims, Don Griffin, and Joe Davis.
From left: Joe Davis, Don Griffin, Susan Sandberg, and Kerry Thomson.
Who gets invited to participate in mayoral candidate forums? What happens if an uninvited mayoral hopeful shows up to participate?
With early voting in the May 2 municipal primary races starting in a little over a week, those questions got asked and answered at a Saturday event hosted by the Kappa Tau Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Alpha Kappa Alpha is one the Divine Nine—that’s the nickname for the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which is an umbrella council composed of historically Black fraternities and sororities.
The forum, which was held at the Crestmont Boys and Girls Club on the north side of town, included the three Democratic Party primary candidates: Don Griffin, Susan Sandberg, and Kerry Thomson.
Not invited was Joe Davis, who has filed the paperwork to form a campaign committee called “Joe Mama for Mayor.” Davis has not submitted the required 352 signatures to be placed on the Nov. 7, 2023 ballot for the general city election.
But Davis arrived at the venue on Saturday, ready to participate. In the end, he was allowed to sit at the table with a hand-written “Joe Mama Bear Davis” name card sitting in front of his spot on the table, and to answer questions in turn with the other questions.
The first live ballots are now headed into the hands of voters in Bloomington’s May 2 municipal primary election.
On Thursday and Friday, absentee ballots were sent to the 28 registered voters who have requested them so far. That’s based on the absentee voter list distributed by Monroe County election division staff.
Over the next few weeks, more absentee ballots will be sent to those who qualify, as more voters request them.
The Democratic Party’s primary will almost certainly select Bloomington’s mayor, city clerk and city council for the next four years. Just one Republican, Brett Heinisch for city council District 3, has declared a candidacy this year.
In the city of Bloomington, the job of mayor is not ceremonial.
That’s different from many cities across America, which use the council-manager form of local government.
In cities that use a council-manager style of government, the city council hires a city manager to oversee the city’s administration and operations, including the appointment of department heads.
The mayor in a council-manager system will typically preside over city council meetings and serve as the city’s representative on various formal occasions. That’s why the council-manager form of local government is sometimes called a weak-mayor system.
But Bloomington is a strong-mayor city, where it’s the mayor who oversees the operations of city government and hires the department heads.
This year, Bloomington voters will elect a new mayor to a four-year term. Incumbent John Hamilton has announced he is not seeking re-election.
In a Thursday afternoon meeting that lasted about six and a half minutes, Monroe County’s three-member election board dispatched all the resolutions related to setting polling locations for the May 2 primary elections.
Wednesday at noon was the deadline for political campaign committees to file their finance paperwork—the CFA-4.
Hitting that deadline were all three declared candidates for mayor of Bloomington: Don Griffin, Susan Sandberg, and Kerry Thomson.
Raising the most was Thomson with $92,828. That’s more than three times what each of the other two candidates raised.
Griffin raised $25,987 which was just a little more than Sandberg’s $25,217.
With his mid-December fundraising launch, compared to mid-summer for Thomson and Sandberg, Griffin got the latest start of the three. They’re all competing for the nomination of Democratic Party in the May 2 primary.
There’s still time for candidates to declare a candidacy for either major party’s nomination—that deadline is Feb. 3 at noon.
Griffin’s later start came only after incumbent mayor John Hamilton announced in mid-November he would not be seeking reelection to a third term.
Wednesday was the first day it was possible to file the forms to declare an official candidacy for municipal elections in Indiana’s 2023 election cycle.
In Monroe County, nine candidates got that paperwork task out of the way on Day One.
Filing their CAN-42 forms on Wednesday, in order of filing, were: Kerry Thomson (Bloomington mayor); Susan Sandberg (Bloomington mayor); Sue Sgambelluri (Bloomington city council District 2); Don Griffin (Bloomington mayor); Ron Smith (Bloomington city council District 3); William Ellis (Ellettsville town council Ward 2); Jonas Schrodt (Bloomington city council at large); Brett Heinisch (Bloomington city council, District 3); and Nicole Bolden (Bloomington city clerk).
Reached by The B Square on Friday afternoon, Griffin said a more formal announcement would be forthcoming, probably early next week. For now, he’s just telling people that he is, if fact, running, and they’re welcome to tell others, too.
Above: Bloomington city councilmember Jim Sims before the council’s Nov. 30, 2022 committee-of-the-whole meeting. Attendance at the Nov. 30, 2022 committee-of-the-whole meeting was 100 percent, as Sue Sgambelluri and Matt Flaherty joining remotely by Zoom.
Bloomington at-large city councilmember Jim Sims will not be seeking reelection in 2023.
Sims has confirmed his plans not to run in 2023 in a phone interview with The B Square.
The nine-members of the city council, along with the mayor and city clerk, are up for election in 2023. All 11 elected Bloomington officials are Democrats.
Sims said his decision not to seek reelection was a tough one—something he had grappled with, and consulted with others about.
But in the end, Sims said, he recognized the potential impact that the stress of city council service might have on his own health. That led him to conclude he could serve the community better in non-legislative ways.
Thomson led off her remarks with a recognition of Hamilton’s news: “I don’t know if anybody has heard, but John Hamilton decided he’s not running.”
She added, “We are grateful for his service to the city. And we are building forward with new leadership in the city of Bloomington—that’s what we know.”
So far at least, there are two declared candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor in the 2023 race—Thomson and city council president Susan Sandberg. Their candidacies won’t become official until they file the paperwork in early 2023.
Since late 2018, Thomson has served as executive director of Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement (IUCRE). The center’s website describes the IU initiative as tapping the research, expertise, teaching, and service of IU Bloomington faculty, staff, and students to create connections between non-land-grant, research institutions and rural communities.