TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — WTWO will host a Terre Haute Mayoral Debate on September 28, 2023, between incumbent Mayor Duke Bennett (R) and his challenger Brandon Sakbun (D).
The Terre Haute Mayoral Debate is this Thursday at 7 p.m. on WTWO. There will also be a Live streaming of the event on our website followed by an analysis of the event on our website as well.
In preparation for the debate, here’s a look at both of the candidates:
Duke Bennett (R):
Mayor Duke Bennett grew up in Terre Haute. The 63-year-old Republican says he went to Meadows Elementary School, Woodrow Wilson, and graduated from Terre Haute North, and then attended Ivy Tech and has a bachelor’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Bennett has been married for 36 years, has a daughter and a son, and four grandchildren.
“Grandpa’s a little easier than being a dad, there’s no doubt about that,” said Mayor Duke Bennett. “I think most people would tell you that, but it’s just, you know, knowing that you want to raise ’em the right way. I’m glad they stayed around here. I’m fortunate that they are close to us, which I know a lot of people don’t have that luxury, so we get to see them quite a bit.”
Bennett worked in the computer field before taking office as Mayor of Terre Haute. Bennett believes he’s accomplished many things during his nearly four terms as mayor from helping to improve the wastewater treatment plant to turning the city’s finances around.
“I think turning our financial situation around was huge. You know, to go from a $9 million deficit just in the general fund, just that one fund to a $3 million surplus now and having about 12% reserves on most of our operating funds, that’s been a huge accomplishment,” said Bennett.
Bennett explains why he is running.
“I love the job. That’s why I’m running again. I really do. It’s, it’s been very enjoyable,” said Bennett. “We’ve been through some tough times. Things are swinging the opposite direction now and things are going very well. We’ve got revenue coming in that we’ve never had before with the casino, and so I just kind of decided to, to get back in it again, just to really to, I want to continue to do the things we’ve been working on for a while. And, you know, it’s, it’s not an easy job. Nobody said it was, didn’t expect that when I got in here. But I really enjoy the daily challenges of solving people’s problems. So that’s what, you know, keeps me fired up to continue to want to do it again for another four years.”
Brandon Sakbun (D):
Brandon Sakbun, the Democratic candidate, also grew up in Terre Haute.
The 27-year-old said he attended Sugar Grove Elementary.
“That’s where I won my first election in third grade as student Council treasurer. I like to add that in there,” said Sakbun.
He went to Woodrow Wilson and graduated from Terre Haute South. He also says he has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Indiana University and served as a U.S. Army Ranger.
He’s the son of Dr. Vannara Sakbun and Carlene Sakbun. He has two sisters and an older brother who was in the Marine Corps.
“He was a boxer at the United States Naval Academy, and he was a Marine Corps officer, but like the stubborn younger brother, I went on to become an Army officer, and we always like to joke about that at Thanksgiving,” Sakbun said.
According to Sakbun, he currently works part-time as a math teacher with the Vigo County School Corporation and is an officer in the Indiana National Guard.
“My greatest accomplishment was, some of the actions that I had, during two combat deployments with the 75th Ranger Regiment. And there are definitely some submissions there that’ll kind of have a lasting impact on me personally as well as how I view the world,” said Sakbun.
Sakbun says he’s always been patriotic and was inspired by the fact his parents were immigrants who were able to pursue The American Dream.
Sakbun explains why he is running.
“I’m very passionate about this community. I want to see it grow and flourish. This is the community that raised me. You know, I always tell a quick story about Grandparents Day and, and you know, my grandparents, uh, they, they weren’t anywhere close to, to Indiana, but this is a community that would show up for me during Grandparents’ day and I always have those fond memories,” said Sakbun. “They’d show up to our athletic events, our academic events. And in my formative years, you know, I felt so much love from the city of Terre Haute. I would go on to serve the nation. I serve the state and the National Guard. So I’m, I’m here to serve the community of Terre Haute.”