A new contender within the political realm, Democratic candidate for mayor Abbie Smith, is beginning to garner attention on the state level after a resounding primary victory.
After clinching a victory in the primaries, Smith earned an early milestone in her fledgling political career. A first-time candidate, the political newcomer topped Kevin Summers, a long-time local political figure, by a wide margin, ensuring a battle for the mayor’s office involving both Republican candidate Commissioner Tyler Moore and Independent candidate Michael Virgin.
As she continues her campaign on the local level, Smith has earned looks from the state’s Democratic Party. Early this month she garnered a speaking position at the Indiana Democratic Party’s 2019 Hoosier Hospitality Dinner, introducing Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett during his own bid for reelection. At the event, Smith reflected on what she viewed to be the changing political landscape within the state.
“We’re proud of our communities, and we run to ensure our leaders reflect the communities they serve. And it shows,” said Smith. “In 2018, a record number of women, first-time, and millennial candidates stepped up to run. And guess what? It shows. We sent nine of them to the statehouse. In 2019, more than 300 Hoosier democratic women are running for office. More than 140 Hoosiers of color, LGBTQ-plus Hoosiers, and differently-abled Hoosiers are running for office. And more than 100 young democrats are running for office. The reinforcements are here, and we’re expanding the battlefield.”
Smith is far from alone in her run for office as a female candidate. She’s not the first to do so on the local level, with Howard County Auditor Martha Lake making an unsuccessful bid against Mayor Greg Goodnight in 2015, but she’s joined by first-time female mayoral candidates across the state this year.
According to Katie Doyle, the municipal director of the Indiana Democratic Party, 13 women are engaged in mayoral races this year. Many of them, like Smith, are first-time candidates. Doyle said she hoped the trend functions with something of a cascade effect.
“I think just here at the state party we’ve really focused on building the bench,” said Doyle. “Over the last couple years we’ve been really engaging voters and trying to create the next wave of great candidates. In 2019 we’ve really hit the gas pedal on that, and we’ve held over 15 trainings between webinars and in-person training across the state.
“Really it’s just making sure that we’re finding these people who want to step up and run, and getting them started at the local level is a great place, really just building on that momentum and providing them with as many tools as possible. I think having first-time candidates run just increases that by showing other people they can step up, and we can help them.”
And, Doyle noted, choosing Smith to speak at the event came as a result of the momentum her campaign garnered thus far in the election cycle.
“She’s just one of the great candidates that we have,” said Doyle. “She’s doing a lot of great things in Kokomo, talking to a lot of voters and really building momentum. She’s really a prime example of a rising star in the party. I think she’s a great candidate.”
Smith admitted she didn’t expect to garner state-level attention when she first began her mayoral bid, but she said she believed voters are taking notice from candidates new to the political fold.
“I think people are very tired of politics as usual. I’ve seen that over and over and over,” said Smith. “A new generation is coming up, and it’s our future we’re planning. It’s our children’s future we’re planning. We’re trying to serve, and it’s time for a new way to do it. I think that’s resonating.”