RICH JAMES: Hatcher no doubt smiling on plethora of black county candidates

2013-09-15T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Hatcher no doubt smiling on plethora of black county candidatesRich James nwitimes.com
September 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It was a good 30 years ago when Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher and the city’s precinct organization bolted from the county Democratic convention.

I remember the look on Hatcher’s face. He was angered. I couldn’t blame him. He was tired of being used.

The convention was after the May primary. All nominees for countywide office were white. Gary, which was predominately black, provided the largest Democratic vote in the county.

Hatcher thought it was time for the party to nominate a black candidate for an administrative countywide office. And he asked the convention to adopt a resolution calling for just that.

I can’t recall if the resolution failed or never was brought to a vote. It doesn’t matter. Hatcher and Co. walked, threatening to boycott white Democratic candidates.

There never was a boycott, and the party never adopted the Hatcher resolution.

But the Democratic Party has since backed black candidates for countywide office and continues to do so today.

For several terms, the county recorder was black, including Rudy Clay, Bob Freeland and Morris Carter.

Today, County Clerk Mike Brown heads the largest countywide administrative office ever held by a black.

The party’s internal struggles are on the verge of heating up prior to the 2014 primary. And Hatcher has been out of office for 26 years.

A priority for Democrats – and something that surely is going to happen – is taking back the county assessor’s office from Republican Hank Adams.

With the help of Democrats, Adams defeated black Democrat Carol Ann Seaton, who had a multitude of problems, including a question of whether she lived in Michigan or Indiana.

The only question next year is who the Democrats will nominate to take on Adams.

Black county Councilman Jerome Prince, who is both qualified and likable, would be a solid candidate. He was a deputy Calumet Township assessor.

Former Ross Township Assessor Randy Guernsey, who lost to Seaton, likely won’t find anything there if he goes to the well again. Democrats can be an unforgiving bunch.

With Mike Brown a virtual lock for another term as clerk, and Prince looming large for assessor, it ought to be interesting.

But that isn’t all.

There are rumblings among black Democrats about going after Peggy Katona – the current auditor who is running for treasurer because of term limits. The thinking is that Katona – and her mother and father before her – have held county office long enough. That’s unfortunate because she has been a competent official.

And Richard Ligon is making a second attempt at becoming the county’s first black sheriff.

Democrats are an inclusive bunch, but it isn’t likely there will be four black candidates nominated for countywide office in the 2014 primary.

But one thing is for sure. Hatcher is smiling.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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