INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett announced Monday he will step down from the post by the end of the month and several prominent Democrats said they hope it is a sign he plans to run for mayor of Indianapolis next year.
Hogsett's resignation letter to Attorney General Eric Holder didn't give a reason for his decision to step down as the top federal prosecutor for central and southern Indiana and his spokesman, Tim Horty, said Hogsett had no further comment on the decision. Federal law prohibits Hogsett, who previously said he planned to stay on as U.S. attorney through 2016, from being involved in politics while in office.
Former Sen. Even Bayh, who named Hogsett his chief of staff when he was governor and nominated him for the U.S. attorney post four years ago, said he hopes his longtime friend will run for mayor.
"I think he would be a great mayor, particularly with his record on fighting crime and violence in our streets," he said.
Dan Parker, who resigned as Indiana Democratic Party chairman in 2011, said Hogsett should run, citing the biggest issue before Indianapolis "spiraling violent crime." Parker has ruled out running for mayor.
"Given his background as the U.S. attorney and what he's done in that office, his record of achievement, he'd have the strongest background of anyone in our party here in the city to tackle that," Parker said.
Indianapolis has been struggling with a spike in violence, with 72 homicides in just over six months — a pace that could rival 1998, when the city set a record with 162 homicides. Over the Fourth of July weekend, a police officer was fatally shot and seven people were wounded in a gun battle in a popular nightlife district.
Parker said Indianapolis needs a leader who knows how to deal with crime.
"He has shown he can be effective in prosecuting crimes — going after illegal possession of guns by criminals and public corruption. He has a record of trying to hold public officials up to the highest standard," Parker said.
Hogsett doesn't have a strong record of winning elections. He was appointed secretary of state to complete Bayh's unfinished term when he became governor in 1989 and was elected to the office in 1990. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1992, for Congress in 1994 and for Indiana attorney general in 2004.
Bayh said he thinks this time could be different.
"Sometimes, the man and the moment happen to meet, and he's had an outstanding record of fighting crime and violence across the Southern District of Indiana. That happens to be the foremost challenge facing the city of Indianapolis right now, and so that might be a nice combination to have in the next mayor," Bayh said.
Asked whether he would be willing to share with Hogsett some of the $9.8 million cash on hand in campaign funds he has, according to a Federal Election Commission campaign finance report, Bayh said: "I'll be happy to do whatever I'm legally allowed to do for him."
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, is expected to seek a third term but hasn't yet announced he will run. Frank Short, a Democratic trustee for Washington Township and a former Indianapolis city-county councilor, announced in February he would run for mayor.
Coyne reported from South Bend.