John Hamilton officially launched his 2019 re-election bid for Mayor of Bloomington at the Monroe County Democratic Party Headquarters Tuesday evening with brief remarks and thanks to his supporters.
“I’m very proud of where our community is going, and where we have come from, and where we’re working, where it's happening,” Hamilton said.
He told the crowd he first decided to run for mayor in 2015 to improve jobs, enhance affordable housing and make Bloomington government more transparent.
Hamilton won the 2015 election with 77 percent of the vote against Republican John Turnbull, according to the Indiana Secretary of State . The democratic primary was a closer race, with Hamilton beating his opponent by about 1,000 votes out of 6,641.
The mayor could face off against Democrat Amanda Barge, president of the Monroe County Commissioners and a well-known community member, in May’s primary.
Barge announced a mayoral exploratory committee Nov. 13 to formally consider the possibility of running for Hamilton’s office.
“I feel like we’re just listening to a specific segment of this community,” Barge said. “I want to make sure all the voices are heard.”
Despite campaigning and voting for Hamilton in 2015, Barge said she and other community members are concerned about a lack of transparency and community participation in the current administration.
She was particularly bothered when the administration publicly posted details on overdose deaths. The anger from the community following the decision to purchase the BearCat armored vehicle was another signal to her that public input was not being considered.
Barge is formally meeting with residents and IU students to collect feedback on Hamilton’s administration before making her official decision.
Hamilton’s announcement at party headquarters does not necessarily mean an endorsement from local Democrats, said Monroe County Democratic Party Chair Mark Fraley. Both campaigns are renting office space.
“Both John Hamilton and Amanda Barge are seasoned public officials and I am fully convinced that both will be able to run campaigns that are thoughtful, competitive and based on the issues,” Fraley said.
The last mayoral election had a 7 percent voter turnout. But following an unprecedented turnout in this year’s midterms, Fraley said interest in local issues will likely draw more people to the polls in 2019.
Hamilton also announced the members of his campaign staff Tuesday evening. Kaisa Goodman, former executive director of the Monroe County Democratic Party, will be Hamilton’s campaign manager, according to a press release.
His co-chairs will include former Congressman Lee Hamilton, former Mayor Tomilea Allison and Bloomington City Clerk Nicole Bolden, alongside several other prominent members of the community.
Hamilton said it was too early to enter the campaign season, but expects to continue working on jobs, affordable housing and government transparency.
“Enjoy the holidays,” Hamilton said in an interview with the Indiana Daily Student. “We’ll get into the politics in January.”
Joey Bowling contributed reporting to this story.