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Special council election draws criticism over process, result

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Posted at 7:05 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 19:05:06-04

INDIANAPOLIS – A former Indianapolis employee was elected to a vacant City-County Council position Tuesday evening, but many citizens in the community aren't happy about the process or the result.

Former Indianapolis Director of Business and Neighborhood Services Jason Larrison was elected to represent District 12 for the City-County Council, filling a spot left vacant by a departing councilor. When Indiana Rep. Dan Forestal resigned from his position in the state legislature, he was replaced by now-former Councilor Blake Johnson. This means Johnson’s position was now open.

Per Indiana law, the vacancies are filled by a special election of elected and appointed precinct committeepeople.

Tuesday’s election was between Larrison, Karla Lopez-Owens and Francine Lee. Larrison carried Mayor Joe Hogsett’s endorsement, but Lopez-Owens had the endorsements of many statewide Democrats and current councilors.

The Marion County Democratic Party hasn’t revealed details about what the vote total was but did say Larrison cast a vote, as he was elected to be a committeeperson in 2018.

The day before, some of Larrison’s writings from more than a decade ago became public. In some of those writings, he made disparaging comments about immigrants and women. In a leaked letter from 12 councilors to Hogsett, they urged Larrison to step down because of the blog writings.

“Racism, sexism, and homophobia, even if viewed through a different filter now than in 2008, are not acceptable traits for someone seeking to serve in the most powerful, most diverse Democratic Council Caucus in our city’s recent history,” the letter read.

In a Facebook post after winning the election, Larrison said he still has work to do to build trust with his constituents.

“I know that actions speak louder than words, and I have much work to do in the days and weeks ahead to build trust with my neighbors in District 12 and my new colleagues on the Council,” the post reads. “In doing so, I am committed to serving the interests of the Eastside and specifically advocating for those who are not like myself. I enter into this service with humility. When my service is done, my hope is that I will have made you proud.”

But his comments about humility weren’t enough for some Indianapolis residents. A Facebook post by the Marion County Democratic Party congratulating Larrison on his win has dozens of comments of frustration at the process and of Larrison’s victory. A protest is even planned for Monday evening at the City-County Building, calling on him to step down.

The Marion County Democratic Party released the following statement about the backlash to the election:

“It’s clear that our community is made up of countless passionate individuals working to affect real and lasting change. That kind of enthusiasm, at all levels of the political process, only strengthens our party moving forward. Now more than ever, we must continue working together towards our shared goals – healthcare for all, food access, police reform, economic development, and so much more.”