GARY | Mayor Rudy Clay plans to announce this week who he is endorsing to succeed his administration -- and it won't be City Councilwoman Ragen Hatcher, D-at-large.
"She already has stated publicly that she doesn't want my support. I will adhere to her wish, for sure," Clay said Monday.
Clay announced Friday he was deactivating his re-election campaign because of a prostate cancer diagnosis he has received.
Nine other Democrats are vying for voter support in the party's May 3 primary.
Hatcher, who has opposed Clay's administration in recent years, said Monday she expects Clay to support her rival, Gary attorney Karen Freeman-Wilson, a former city judge and former state attorney general.
"I understand Rudy is sending his people around and telling them that if they want to keep their city contracts, they should vote for Karen," Hatcher said.
Clay denied he or his supporters are pressuring anyone. "That's the biggest lie that has ever been told," he said.
Freeman-Wilson said Monday she had asked Clay for his support early this year before Clay filed for another term, but she doesn't know who he will endorse this week.
Freeman-Wilson said the city's 1st District Democratic precinct organization endorsed her before Clay's announced withdrawal, and the 4th District endorsed her last weekend.
Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, and County Clerk Mike Brown said they support Freeman-Wilson, too, because of her background and contacts in state government and beyond. "I believe she certainly becomes the front-runner," Allen said.
Hatcher has won the endorsement of Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin and said she will be battling for future endorsements when the city's other district organizations meet in the coming weeks.
"Now that he is out of the race, there are so many people who have relaxed and are judging the candidates based on what is going on out in the street. Those city workers have seen me stand up for them in the past and are already on board with us," Hatcher said.
Wilson said she hopes her maturity in political life will attract the core of Mayor Clay's supporters.