Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford explains strategy of his coming ‘nuclear’ mayoral campaign

Republican City Councilman John Crawford plans to stress five issues in his campaign for mayor next year. (File photo by Kevin Leininger of News-Sentinel.com)

City Councilman John Crawford was promising a “nuclear” campaign for mayor next year even before he made the announcement official last month. Now he has defined his coming strategy: the relentless pursuit of five broad themes.

“I’ll throw everything I can think of into it,” said Crawford, R-at large, who was scheduled to brief reporters Tuesday about his plans for the 2019 Republican mayoral primary and, perhaps, a November showdown with Democratic three-term mayor Tom Henry. Some of Crawford’s central issues, in fact, seem to target Henry specifically even though another well-funded Republican — businessman Tim Smith — has also announced plans to be on the ballot next May.

Crawford said his campaign will focus on fiscal responsibility, opioid abuse, crime, economic development and improved collaboration, topics Crawford believes he is uniquely prepared to address by virtue of professional training and political experience.

In 2014, for example, Crawford took the lead in ultimately successful efforts to eliminate collective bargaining for most city employees and last year helped pass a “pay to play” bill limiting city contractors’ campaign contributions to Fort Wayne elected officials. Crawford said he would also demonstrate a concern for taxpayer dollars by adopting “zero-based” budgeting that would allow the city to reorder priorities by making spending decisions from scratch instead of on the basis of the previous year’s budget.

Crawford, a physician, successfully promoted a ban on smoking in most public places in 2007 and said his medical background would be invaluable in the fight against opioid abuse, which officials estimate affects about 40,000 people in Allen County. “We have 1,000 people walking around today who wouldn’t be here” if not for the smoking law, he claimed.

He believes the city’s soaring homicide rate in recent years could be reduced through an enhanced witness protection program — something Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards has also suggested in an attempt to gain testimony from reluctant or fearful witnesses.

And Crawford, a late supporter of the Harrison Square and Parkview Field projects, said the success of those and other downtown renovation efforts — which he pointedly said began with Henry’s predecessor, Graham Richard — indicate the benefit of “public private partnerships” such as the $220 million Electric Works.

Crawford has been an outspoken supporter of the project on the old General Electric Campus, the developers of which are seeking $65 million in local public funds, and has also accused Henry of showing insufficient leadership and support in connection with the project.

Electric Works and other issues could be more effectively addressed by working collaboratively with other governmental units and across party lines, Crawford insisted — the kind of bipartisanship Crawford said he represents even though council passed the the collective bargaining bill along party lines and the pay-to-play vote was mostly a Republican affair.

Crawford was elected to council in 1995 but was defeated in 2007 after passage of the smoking ban. He was re-elected four years later.

Last fall, Crawford placed an ad in local newspapers asking voters whether he should run for mayor or stay on City Council. Two-thirds supported his mayoral bid, which he made official in April. “Medicine is my first love, and I didn’t want to give up being a doctor,” he told The News-Sentinel last October. “But I’m at a point where I can do it now. We’ve had a Democratic mayor for 20 years (Richard served two terms prior to Henry), and at this point change is a good thing.”

As of last Dec. 31, Crawford’s campaign already had cash on hand of $267,437 and Smith reported $232,000. Henry, who has not said whether he’ll seek a fourth term, had $465,546.

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