Crowded race for mayor of ‘Steel City’

April 29, 2011

Seal of the City of Gary, Indiana

What do a teacher, a Realtor, a member of Gary City Council and a former attorney general have in common? They are bumping shoulders in the Democratic primary for mayor of Gary, Indiana.

Early voting wraps up Monday in Northwest Indiana’s second-largest city. In-person precinct voting is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 3.

As is often the case, the Democratic primary is crowded (nine candidates) compared to the GOP side (one candidate). Gary hasn’t elected a Republican mayor in nearly 60 years.

Balloting in the Democratic contest is complicated by the fact that one especially prominent person on the ballot—incumbent mayor Rudy Clay—has taken himself out of the running. On April 8, Clay ended his campaign for another four-year term due to treatment for prostate cancer.. Election officials say he dropped out too late for ballots to be reprinted.

Clay is endorsing Karen Freeman-Wilson, an attorney who once served as Gary City Court Judge and as Indiana’s attorney general.

The Democratic primary also features Gary City Council member Ragen Hatcher, who serves as board attorney for the Gary Community School Corporation.

Hatcher’s father, Richard Hatcher, served as mayor of Gary for 20 years. He gained national recognition for becoming the first African-American to hold mayoral office in a major American city, when Gary had a population of more than 150,000.  His election in 1967 was seen as a victory in the Civil Rights movement.

Whoever takes the mayoral seat will have to confront several challenges, including a declining population, shrinking property tax revenue and a tight budget.

WBEZ’s Michael Puente secured interviews with each candidate in the contested Democratic primary.

(ballot order, minus Rudy Clay)

Jeffery L. Tatum
Police officer, Gary

Karen Freeman-Wilson
Former Gary City Judge
Former Indiana Attorney General

Robert L. Lewis
Employee of carpentry firm

Saba S. Mohammed
Realtor and tax preparer

Larry Evans
Hardware store owner, Gary
Employee, Indiana Department of Corrections

Richard Nash
Owner of Lifesavers Training Center, Gary

Harold Foster
Teacher, West Side High School, Gary
Former head of Gary Chamber of Commerce
Former board member of the Gary Chicago International Airport

Ragen Hatcher
Gary Community School Corporation, corporation counsel.
Gary City Council, at-large member.

Lester L. (Chip) Lowe, Jr.
Owner of liquor stores, Gary
U.S. Marine veteran