House District 97, which includes most of Downtown Indianapolis and communities to its south and west, has been a Democratic stronghold for decades, often with the acquiescence of the Republican Party, which hasn’t run a candidate in two of the last three general elections.
The district was last represented by Republicans in 2006, when Jon Elrod defeated four-term incumbent Ed Mahern by eight votes; Elrod lost a bid for re-election to Mary Ann Sullivan. When she opted to run for the Indiana Senate in 2012, Justin Moed took her place in District 97 and has held onto the seat easily, facing no opposition in five primaries.
Most neighborhoods in the district struggle with homelessness and abandoned housing and need help with commerical revitalization and connecting community groups to available resources. Public education is another hot-button issue that has riled communities to action, with success —keeping George Washington High School open and moving Manual High School back under IPS control after several years of out-of-state management.
Industry has a big presence in the district, which encompasses a major landfill, trucking companies, and Covanta waste management. Environmental issues are a regular struggle. A pervasive odor from Metalworking Lubricants over Southside neighborhoods has drawn Moed into legal action to help complaining residents.
On the flip side, the redevelopment of the former GM Stamping Plant as the new corporate headquarters of Elanco has the potential to transform a blighted section of the district along the White River. There’s also a small bit of agriculture within the district's boundaries—Moed himself lives on a three-acre farm near Bluff Road.
Until 2020, Moed’s only challenge in either a general or primary election had come the year after he made news for an involvement with an adult-film actress also linked to former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner; Moed was re-elected in 2016 with 61 percent of the general election vote. After an unopposed run in 2018, he won 55 percent of the vote against Republican and Libertarian opponents in 2020. -- Megan Fernandez