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GARY | Gary Mayor Rudy Clay threw the weight of his political supporters behind Democratic mayoral candidate Karen Freeman-Wilson on Tuesday morning.

"I'm not only going to support Karen, we're putting effort into it. Remember Mike Tyson? He took Buster Douglas for granted. He got knocked out. We're not taking anything for granted," Clay said.

Clay defined "support" as money, but said he also would make campaign stops on Freeman-Wilson's behalf.

Clay had more than $70,000 on hand at the end of 2010, according to his campaign finance filings.

"(Clay) understands the city needs strong experience and compassionate leadership," Freeman-Wilson said. "I have a vision and have detailed that vision."

Freeman-Wilson is considered one of two front-runners in the crowded race, along with Councilwoman Ragen Hatcher, whose father, Richard Hatcher, served as Gary mayor for two decades.

Even before the announcement, Ragen Hatcher responded by chastising Gary's old political guard.

"If you liked the Clay administration and if you thought that Scott King was a good mayor, then Karen is your candidate," Hatcher said in the released statement. "However, if you see that Gary has been going down the wrong path for years under both these men, then you will choose a fresh new start."

Freeman-Wilson said Hatcher's statement "shows a lack of maturity."

"There's a lot to be gained from people who've gone before you. Our job is to take the baton, take the banner and move it to a different level," she said.

Clay said the decision to support Freeman-Wilson was easy.

"Karen is the best qualified candidate," he said.

Hatcher, who was in Crown Point on Tuesday morning, said the election of Freeman-Wilson would only be a continuation of the city's failed politics.

"We've already had four years of the Rudy Clay administration. We need a new direction. Whether it's Karen or Rudy or Scott King, it's all the same. It's like I'm being triple teamed."

Clay announced he would not seek another term in office because of prostate cancer. He filed for election and was actively campaigning up until his announcement last week.

Five Gary council members also announced their endorsement of Freeman-Wilson at the news conference Tuesday: Marilyn Krusas, D-1st; Shirley Stanford, D-2nd; Mary Brown, D-3rd; Kimberly Robinson, D-5th; and Council President Ronier Scott, D-6th.

Times staff writer Bill Dolan contributed to this report.

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