How much stock do voters place in endorsements? It's a good question with varied answers. While some endorsements bring lots of cash, others might bestow prestige, such as when one comes from previously elected officials or a highly respected community leader.
In any case, it's not uncommon for current office holders to endorse a candidate in a race that will choose their successor, which was the case on Feb.23, when we reported that District 5 City Councilor Jill Gaebler had endorsed Nancy Henjum in a five-way race for the seat. The post is up for grabs because Gaebler is term limited.
In supporting Henjum, Gaebler said, "I’ve done my homework and met with the candidates who are seeking to fill the District 5 seat."
Well, one candidate says that's not true.
"I just wanted to let you know she never reached out to me and I have never talked with her so her statement is false," Justin Hermes, a Realtor and property manager, tells the Indy via email.
He adds that "it’s not a huge deal" but is "frustrating to see someone make a false statement."
We asked Gaebler about this, and she essentially admitted her statement was false.
"I actually didn’t reach out to any of the candidates running for my council seat, but was very happy to speak to the ones who contacted me," she says in an email.
Gaebler furthers adds, "All of them reached out, except for Mr. Hermes, which told me he wasn’t interested in my perspective on the issues in our district or in my support."
Candidate Matt Zelenok, who's involved in real estate, reports he had an exchange with Gaebler, but says, "Yes, we spoke — only because I took the initiative to reach out to her."
He also said he contacted her "in order to better understand her city council priorities and her agenda as it relates to my district and community. Since I believe District 5 needs a fresh approach and Mrs. Gaebler and I do not agree on many issues and perspectives — I never sought her endorsement."
The other two candidates say Gaebler told them she didn't plan to endorse anyone in the race.
Karlie Van Arnam, who manages two medical marijuana centers, says she met with Gaebler in January. "At that time, she had told me she made the decision to not endorse any of the candidates running in district 5," Van Arnam says.
Mary Elizabeth Fabian, who owns a photography business, said, "Councilwoman Gaebler did speak with me before I announced and stated that she would likely not endorse any candidate in this race, but specifically would not endorse Nancy Henjum. After watching the councilwoman’s endorsement, I am concerned that this ensures four more years of only representation of the Old North End while ignoring the rest of District 5’s needs. This was not an endorsement of who will represent the district best but who will continue Councilwoman Gaebler’s pet policies and projects. I will work every day to represent all of District 5’s residents and neighborhoods."
We asked Gaebler about her alleged statements about not endorsing anyone, to which she responded:
"I did tell several of the candidates that I was unlikely to endorse any of them, but was happy to talk," she says.
"Nancy Henjum, however, reached out to me numerous times, wanted very much to understand the issues the Council is currently addressing, and clearly displayed that she cares about the many city issues that I have championed, like infill and redevelopment, attainable housing, and multimodal transportation," says Gaebler. "Thus I ultimately decided to endorse Nancy’s vision for our city and believe she will work collaboratively and thoughtfully with other council members and will serve our district well."
Meantime, Hermes is on the campaign trail. "We are still on track to knock 25,000 doors by March 14. We got 150 street signs up. I’m learning a ton and grateful for all the advise I have gotten from the voters," he said.
Hermes is self-funding his campaign and expects to shell out about $3,600. "I will not be making any anymore self donations," he says in an email. "I have everything I need on hand to win this!"
Hermes is holding a town hall Feb. 27 at Finish Line Lounge, 1812 E. Monument St. He'll hold another one at Happy Tap Bar and Grill, 1757 S. 8th St., on March 13.
Over in District 1, which covers the northwest portion of the city, Dave Donelson has announced the incumbent Don Knight, who like Gaebler is term limited, has endorsed him.
"Don said he considered all the candidates for his district carefully, asking them to complete a questionnaire and talked with them personally," a news release said. "In the end, it is very apparent that Dave Donelson is the candidate he would like to pass the baton to for the next council term. Don Knight also said Dave aligns with his own principles and knows he will respect and care for the people he will serve."
Donelson is in a four-way race for the open seat, competing with Jim Mason, Glenn Carlson and Michael Seeger.
The city election will fill six City Council seats and decide Issue 1, which asks to abolish the 30-word ballot title limit on tax and debt measures.
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