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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Former City-County Councilman Jose Evans has dropped out of the race for mayor.

Evans announced his candidacy for the Republican nominatioin against Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett last month. But he says it’s clear State Senator Jim Merritt will win the county party’s endorsement at next month’s slating convention. He says it’s time for the party to unite behind Merritt and work to elect him.

Evans notes he was first elected to the council as a Democrat. He says the Republicans welcomed him when he switched parties, and says he doesn’t want to do anything now that will fracture the party. Rather, he says he’ll work to help Merritt connect with minority voters he says Republicans have too often written off without even making an effort. Merritt joined Evans at an African-American-owned northside barbershop to accept Evans’ endorsement and hold an impromptu town meeting with barbers and patrons.

Merritt stepped down as Marion County Republican chairman last month as he neared his decision to take on Hogsett. He says he and Evans had been talking about the race for the last couple of months, in what he describes as a “mutual admiration society.”

Merritt still faces two challengers, businessman John Schmitz and minister Felipe Rios. Merritt says they should participate in the slating convention — but should abide by its results.

Republican mayoral candidate Sen. Jim Merritt (left) and former City-County Councilman Jose Evans (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)