Democratic Mayor Tom Henry and Republican Fort Wayne City Councilman Tom Didier will officially face off in this year’s election, which is the second time the two have campaigned for the same spot.
The last time the two faced each other was in 2003, when Didier won the 3rd District City Council seat from Henry by 172 votes – about 51% of the ballots.
Henry served the 3rd District for about 20 years before Didier was elected, which was about 20 years ago. Henry and Didier said they are also looking forward to the contest.
“Now I’ve got to get checkmate, I feel very confident,” Dider said. “I really believe the voters are ready for a change.”
Didier said he believes people want more dialogue and a change after 16 years of one mayor.
Henry said his family and the Didiers have known each other for a long time. So he expects both sides to run a positive and spirited competition.
“I think it’ll be a very lively campaign,” he said. “Aggressive but in a positive way.”
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Henry is a four-term incumbent and the city’s second-longest serving mayor. He beat his only challenger, Jorge Fernandez, by 4,209 votes, according to the initial vote count Tuesday. Henry won with 78% of the vote.
“If you voted for my opponent, that’s quite all right,” Henry said in his acceptance speech. “I still got 80%.”
He said the vote showed a strong statement from Democrats that they want him as mayor again.
Henry said he didn’t think Fernandez getting 22% of the vote was a reaction to the mayor’s drunken-driving arrest in October. He said he hopes the incident doesn’t have an effect on voters in the general election.
“Obviously it was a bad judgment call on my part,” he said. “We’re all human.”
Henry added that although he had a stumble in his personal life, he remained strong in his duties and decisions.
Didier faced two Republican candidates – 4th District City Councilman Jason Arp and food truck businessman Eddie Ribel. Didier won with 7,122 votes, or about 64% of the ballots cast.
Arp reached 33.4% with 3,708 votes, and Ribel took 1.49% with 166.
A fourth candidate, Jesse Crammer, registered to run as a Republican mayoral candidate but announced March 23 he was no longer running. His name remained on the ballot because he missed the Feb. 10 date to formally withdraw from the race, and he garnered 123 votes.
Arp has served on the City Council since 2016 and announced his intention to run for mayor on his Facebook page Aug. 26. He ran on a platform of keeping city spending down so it doesn’t run into trouble.
Ribel said he ran his campaign as someone who could represent people who aren’t heard.
When Didier walked into Republican Party headquarters Tuesday night, he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd and Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine introducing him as the next mayor of Fort Wayne.
“We are, for the first time in two decades, recapturing the mayor’s office,” Shine said.
Republican voters showed enthusiasm, Shine said. The 22% that Henry’s opponent won was also telling, he added.
Didier said in his acceptance speech, “I think Republicans are ready to put Fort Wayne first.”
The path to the mayor’s office goes back 20 years when he ran for council and tried to help Fort Wayne revitalize, Didier said. However, he didn’t have the idea to run for mayor until the end of his second term, and even then he felt he needed more time to prepare himself.
Twenty years as a councilman has taught him enough to be an effective mayor, Didier said.
“I really feel I am ready for the challenge,” Didier said.
The general election will be Nov. 7.