Is Sharp mayor Brainard’s toughest challenger yet?


Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard hasn’t just won his past elections, he’s won handily. We’re talking 60 percent of the vote, leading some to say that the incumbent should be heavily favored as he seeks his sixth term.

But now City Council President Rick Sharp has thrown his hat in the ring.

He raised $94,064 in 2014 before even filing his candidacy. He has name recognition as a six-time president of the council. This is leading some to wonder: Will Rick Sharp be the toughest competitor that Brainard has faced in an election? Or will the mayor cruise to victory yet again?


“Do I think this is the biggest challenge that Brainard has faced? I think it so,” said City Councilor Eric Seidensticker, a close friend of Sharp’s. “The fundraising has been substantial which shows there are enough people out there who do want a change.”

City Councilor Luci Snyder ran against the mayor herself back in 2003 and Brainard won with 65 percent of the vote. She said the timing is different nowadays which makes Sharp a much tougher challenger for the incumbent. She said numerous newspaper articles about hundreds of millions in debt for the city and the Carmel Redevelopment Commission has taxpayers worried. The conversation is different nowadays, she said.

“Any viable candidate – and Rick is viable, he has credentials – has a better chance this year because people are concerned about the debt,” she said. “People are thinking about the debt load and the spending and they hadn’t before.”

Although those who back Brainard say they’ve heard this story before. Bruce Kimball, who is running against Seidensticker for a council seat, said it’s not wise to bet against Brainard in an election.

City Councilor Ron Carter, who was first elected when Brainard took office, said he thinks voters are happy with Carmel’s growth, especially since the last election, which saw The Palladium and The Carmel City Center really take shape.

“I don’t really see any reason for it to be much different this year,” he said. “The mayor has had a solid record of accomplishment over the past four years. He has kept his message the same and I expect he’ll run the same kind of campaign that he’s run in the past and have the same kind of margin of victory.”

Sharp himself said he knows he can win. Although Brainard raised $227,277 in 2014, Sharp said the spending advantage won’t mean an automatic victory.

“I’ll never outspend the mayor,” he said. “But I don’t need to. I’m proud of what I’ve raised so far but I don’t think I need to raise much more. The max I’ll raise from here is another fifty thousand dollars. At a hundred and fifty thousand, I’ll call it quits. I’m not trying to buy the seat.”

Sharp said the timing is right because he thinks Brainard’s vision has been firmly established and now it’s time for a prudent financial manager to take the reins. He said that Brainard’s policies are not sustainable and that the city is “operating on the edge” but the mayor said, “the majority of people are happy with the direction we are going.”

“We are going to campaign on our record,” Brainard said. “Carmel residents enjoy the lowest taxes of any major city in the state. An awful lot of people in Carmel are paying less in property taxes today on their homes than they were twenty years ago. That has taken a lot of tough management through several recessions. That is a record I am proud of.”

While Brainard is running for a sixth term, Sharp said if he wins he would pledge to serve two terms maximum. If Sharp doesn’t win he said he would stay involved in government in other ways.

“Change at the top of any organization is a good thing,” he said.