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The Deeper Dive: A break down of Fort Wayne's municipal election results

Our local politics writer Kody Tinnel breaks down last week's municipal election results.
The Deeper Dive: A break down of Fort Wayne's municipal election results
Low voter turnout might be reinforcing the status quo in Fort Wayne.

You've heard: Mayor Tom Henry and all incumbent candidates were re-elected to office last week, alongside a few new faces. Our local politics writer Kody Tinnel breaks down the results for you here.

  • Overall: While all incumbents won, a few had tighter victory margins than in years past. It would not be surprising to see mostly more of the same with City Council and the city administration during the next four years, but Republicans will have a larger majority on council (6-3), which could shift the dynamics and policy decisions a bit to the right.
  • For mayor: Henry (D) was re-elected to a fifth term, but it was the closest mayoral race since he defeated Paula Hughes in 2011 and was very close compared to his 22 point win over Tim Smith in 2019. This could be due to a combination of factors, including candidate similarities between Henry and his challenger Tom Didier, a growing desire to see new leadership and loss of support from voters unhappy about Henry's OWI arrest.
  • On City Council: Several candidates ran strong campaigns and had impressive resumes to back up their policy goals. Melissa Rinehart (D), Patti Hays (D), and Stephanie Crandall (D) stand out as highly qualified candidates who didn't make it past the finish line despite robust efforts. Brand new at the table will be Scott Myers (R, D-4) and Nathan Hartman (R, D-3), both wanting to focus on public safety, budgeting and neighborhood infrastructure. Career policeman Marty Bender (R, At-Large) is also returning to the council table for the first time in eight years, though he is not new to this work, having previously served three terms.
  • The highest vote earner: was City Clerk Lana Keesling (R), suggesting the community is content with her service. Councilwoman Michelle Chambers was the most-favored At-Large City Council candidate, who will return for a second term with a focus on affordable housing solutions and term limits for city boards and commissions.
  • The FWCS Safety referendum passed with 53% of the vote, but received much less public support than overwhelming victories for previous referenda focused on facility upgrades. With prices going up, this could have been the result of voters making economic choices. Or perhaps it is simply a tougher sell to ask for dollars for mental health staff compared to building upgrades.
  • Voter turnout was low with just under 24% of eligible voters participating. In 2019, turnout was just more than 30%. Having three district council seats go unopposed in the general election likely did not help. If turnout did not take such a substantive dip this fall (7,405 fewer people voted than in 2019), there is a good chance we would have seen different outcomes in a few races.