Fort Wayne GOP Mayoral Candidates Arp, Didier and Ribel answer questions ahead of May 2 Primary
Indiana’s primary is next week. Three men, Third District City Councilman Tom Didier, Fourth District City Councilman Jason Arp and businessman Eddie Ribel are campaigning to be the Republican nominee on the November ballot for Fort Wayne Mayor.
WBOI sat down with all three and asked each the same set of questions to allow voters to get to know each of them better before May 2.
Arp believes his business background and council experience qualify him to be mayor.
“I started my own business here in Fort Wayne,” Arp said. “We do real estate investments. Prior to that, I worked doing construction. So, I have a sense of how to build a house and that sort of thing, and I’ve been on Council for eight years, and I’ve been able to apply my financial rigor.”
Ribel touted his business background as well, but also said he can hold the government accountable.
“Just last week, we put the mayor on the hot seat about our Three Rivers Festival,” Ribel said. “By the end of the week, my demands were made, and they’re moving forward with the festival because this festival is all about the people, and that’s what I’m all about.”
Didier has been on council for 20 years. He said that experience is only part of why he should be mayor. He announced his run for mayor three years ago. Since then, he has taken on the campaign slogan of “Fort Wayne First.” He said that is why he is running and it means making the individual neighborhoods in Fort Wayne the priority of the city government.
“Paul Helmke was the previous mayor in the 90’s,” Didier said. “He started a program with the neighborhoods and with the council people and really got them involved, the City Council, and I think that that’s one thing that’s really missing right now on City Council. So, I want to help bring back the utilization of the seeded dollars.”
Arp sees Didier’s use of “Fort Wayne First” differently.
“I don’t know what that means. I think he’s adopted something from a national candidate that he thinks is popular and is using it in his campaign.”
Ribel said he has not seen Didier stand by the Fort Wayne First slogan while on City Council.
“I don’t know what his strategy is on that because when I go to City Council, I try to ask him questions, and he just blows by me,” Ribel said.
All three candidates listed crime as a top three issue facing Fort Wayne, but each had a different way of fighting it.
Arp said the Fort Wayne Police Department needs to rearrange its patrol personnel.
“One thing that I think would be very helpful is to have two-man police cars,” Arp said. “I know that sounds like a very simple idea, but it used to be that way. So, that way when they’re responding to somebody, they already have their backup there with them. That’s going to help them to de-escalate things. If you have to call and wait for backup, you may just pass by and not check it out.”
Ribel said the city needs to spend its money more wisely.
“Let’s give back to the fire department who are way underpaid, and we need to address that,” Ribel said. “So, there’s a hospital with no drug store downtown, and we still keep on building nice condos and apartments downtown, but we don’t have the infrastructure set up.”
Didier said he would call for more community policing.
“I want the police officers to take a different role in regards to how we fight crime and how we treat the individuals themselves in the neighborhoods and things like that because I want the people to understand they’re here to help,” Didier said. “This is not a deterrent. If you have that type of cooperation with the police department, it will definitely help.”
In Mayor Tom Henry’s 2023 budget, which Didier supported, the city is funding an addition to the Fort Wayne Police Department that would make it the largest it’s ever been.
Each candidate had differing opinions on the 2020 election, specifically regarding whether or not Joe Biden was duly elected president. Didier said he was.
“Yeah. He was elected President of the United States,” Didier said. “Who am I to say that he wasn’t elected President? It is what it is. I think the thing that people need to look at is if you’re not for Joe Biden, then you move on to the next set of years.”
Ribel, without directly answering the question, said the 2020 election highlighted the importance of researching candidates.
“Sometimes some people need to do their homework on the candidate,” Ribel said. “I’m maybe somewhat of an unknown candidate to some of these people. I’m a strong Republican, but I put Americans first, Republicans second.”
Arp said there were aspects of the election he found suspicious.
“The idea that people can drop off boxes of ballots in the middle of the night and not have any questions as to the viability of the election,” Arp said. “Obviously, that’s going to create questions.”
Multiple investigations have found no evidence of any such overnight ballot dropoffs.
Arp said his suspicions about the 2020 election should not worry anyone about the upcoming municipal elections.
“I think in Allen County, we don’t have the ballot dropoffs like they do in other states,” Arp said. “We don’t have somewhere where you can drop off ballots in the middle of the night.”
Early voting for Fort Wayne’s mayoral primary has already begun and runs until May 1.
Primary Election Day is May 2.
Henry has a challenger in the Democratic Primary in former Allen County Commissioner Candidate Jorge Fernandez. The winners of both primaries will face off in the general election in November.