Indiana 7th District
Indianapolis, radiating outward from the soldiers and sailors statue in Monument Circle, is precisely at the center of Indiana and is the largest, and most dominant, city in the state. What residents once disparaged as Nap Town has become a thriving metropolis, including the downtown district. The city is the political and governmental capital, industrial and financial center, and the intellectual center of Indiana as well. It is symmetrically laid out: Just to the west of the circle is the state Capitol, to the north is the American Legion headquarters, to the east is the City-County building, and to the south is the Circle Center mall and the RCA Dome (formerly Hoosier Dome). Farther out are some classic and some new Indianapolis institutions: the Indiana University Medical Center; the Convention Center; the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art; Conseco Fieldhouse; and the NCAA’s headquarters. Indianapolis has become the nation’s amateur sports capital, especially for basketball, and it is a popular place for religious conventions. In 2006, a Brookings Institution study found that Indianapolis had the highest job growth of the 25 largest Rust Belt cities. It attracts many young Indianans looking for opportunity. With its strong service economy, Indianapolis continued to experience job growth even as the recession began, although the financial troubles of General Motors had an impact. In June 2009, the auto giant announced the closure of a local stamping plant that employed 760 people.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Politically, Indianapolis has long had robust competition in local and national races. Republicans held the mayor’s office from 1967, when Richard Lugar won it, until 1999. Lugar expanded Indianapolis’s city limits to include all of Marion County in a new entity called UniGov, which made it a solidly Republican constituency. But more recently, affluent young people have been moving to counties farther out, and Marion County has been trending Democratic. In 2004, the county voted for John Kerry by 51%-49%, even as seven surrounding suburban counties gave Bush 70% to 75% of the vote. Barack Obama took Marion County by a stunning 64%-35%. His 107,000-vote margin was nearly four times his lead in the entire state. But Republicans managed to pull off their own upset a year earlier, when management consultant Greg Ballard defeated two-term Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat.
Indiana’s 7th Congressional District includes all of Indianapolis and most of Marion County. It also takes in Center Township, a Democratic stronghold with a large African-American population and a gentrified middle class. But it excludes the affluent, Republican northern edge of the county. The district extends west to include Speedway, where the Indianapolis 500 has been held on a 2.5-mile track since 1911, southward and east to modest neighborhoods, and it includes Amtrak’s largest repair yard, which is in Beech Grove. The Mexican population nearly tripled in size during the 1990s and is the newest immigrant community. The 60% increase in Hispanic-owned businesses from 1997 to 2002 was twice the national average, and in 2007, the Hispanic share of the population was 7.2%. Within these boundaries, the 7th District leans Democratic, and it gave solid majorities to recent Democratic presidential nominees.