Mitch Harper announces mayoral candidacy

Mitch Harper speaks at the Allen County Republican Headquarters and officially announces his run for Fort Wayne Mayor.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Republican Mitch Harper officially filed his candidacy for mayor on Friday. Harper made the announcement at the Allen County Republican Headquarters at 135 West Main St. at 11 a.m.

Harper told a room full of people at the GOP headquarters he ran 10 miles into town to file earlier Friday morning, which he said was also symbolic.

“You’ve got somebody who’s energized and ready to serve and bring some new energy to the job,” Harper said. “It was a beautiful sunrise, I think that’s symbolic too.”

Harper is a Fort Wayne city councilman who represents the 4th district, which includes the west side of the city including Waynedale, Time Corners and much of Aboite Township.

“Mitch Harper has a passion for both people and good government and when you combine those passions it spells great leadership for the future of Fort Wayne,” Steve Shine, the Allen County Republican Party chairman, said.

Democratic incumbent Tom Henry officially launched his re-election bid earlier in January. Henry has served two terms as Fort Wayne’s mayor. During Henry’s announcement he cited what he considered to be his accomplishments. Click here to read more on his run for re-election.

“I think it would be hard for any candidate, republican or democrat, to take on the mayor and his track record,” John Court, the Allen County Democratic Party chairman, said. “It’s Mayor Henry’s to lose. He has the name I.D., the track record to run on and the issues on his side.”

Henry will face three other candidates in the primary: David Roach, Tom Cook and John Roberson. Harper joins Frederick Osheskie and Bill Collins on the republican primary ballot.

“It’s safe to say the nominations are Harper’s and Henry’s to lose. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t lose them, but they certainly are the front-runners,” Andy Downs with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, said.

Downs said a crowded primary can mean a win for democracy.

“Even when it looks like one candidate looks to be very much ahead, they still have to at least engage with voters in a way that they wouldn’t if there was no challenge,” he said.

As of last week, Henry had raised more than half a million dollars. Harper’s campaign finance reports showed around $31,000. See the finance filings here. 

“It was dangerous for Harper to not have raised more money coming into 2015,” Downs said. “Some will say the Harper campaign isn’t serious, therefore they won’t invest it in now. Other people will say, ‘Oh, we better hurry up and raise money now that he’s in.’ Others will say, ‘Look at all that money Mayor Henry has. It’s going to be almost impossible to overcome that, so I’m going to sit out.'”

Downs added that the mayoral race is likely to cost the major candidates between $750,000 and $1.25 million.

“Mitch will be successful in raising more money to be competitive with Mayor Henry and in addition to that, he has something Mayor Henry may not have and that is very strong grassroots support,” Shine said.

Harper added that it will be a long campaign and they will be fine.

“We’re going to restore a city that works for regular folks. We’re going to talk about how you don’t have pay for play. You don’t seek donations from people who have never set foot in the city, but whose companies have contracts with the city. People need that transparency,” Harper said.

Court disagreed.

“I think the struggle Mitch Harper is having in trying to raise funds and make a legitimate fun at mayor in opposition to Mayor Henry speaks volumes,” Court said. ” The mayor’s overwhelming popularity with both democrats and republicans makes him a formidable candidate in both the spring and the fall.”

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