Republican Sue Finkam has won the Carmel mayoral race, according to unofficial election results.
Her opponent, Democrat Miles Nelson, conceded. Early results show Finkam won the race with about 57 percent of the vote.
“I thought this election would be about the best way to lead the city, but it turned into something louder, nastier, and negative when my opponent attacked me and painted Carmel in a negative light nationally," Finkam said during her victory speech on election night.
Finkam will succeed Jim Brainard, also a Republican, who oversaw a vast transformation of the suburban city during seven terms, including a three-fold population surge to 102,000 residents.
Nelson and Finkam are members of the Carmel City Council. They both sought to align themselves with Brainard’s record, which included the installation of more than 150 intersection roundabouts. The structures drew national attention to the suburban city, and have been credited with reducing injuries, deaths and even emissions.
Brainard endorsed Finkam for mayor.
Despite numerous local challenges, including housing, national social issues became a focal point in the race.
During a debate on Oct. 2, Nelson called on Finkam to denounce the far-right conservative organization Moms for Liberty. Finkam didn’t respond.
Following the debate, Finkam wrote on social media that she was called a Nazi and a racist and followed by someone with a camera.
“I strongly denounced the use of the Hitler quote publicly when it happened and have done so multiple times since,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Moms for Liberty as an anti-government organization. The group is aligned with the national parental rights movement that emerged in opposition to COVID-19 public health regulations, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in schools. Local iterations of the group have sprung up across the country over the last two years, including the Hamilton County Moms for Liberty chapter. The local chapter shared messaging online in support of conservative candidates running for school boards across the county — with mixed results .
The Hamilton County Moms for Liberty chapter also garnered national scrutiny and condemnation this past June when it included an Adolf Hitler quote in a newsletter.
The chair of the Hamilton County chapter, Paige Miller, later apologized for the quote .
The local chapter told the Associated Press that they can only endorse school board candidates, but they accused Nelson of campaigning on “silencing parents.”
The city’s mayor has no authority over local school district operations.
Finkam, founder and CEO of a marketing agency, was elected to the city council in 2012. Nelson, who runs an executive search firm, was the first Democrat to be elected to the city council in 2019.