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INDIANAPOLIS | Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. learned Friday what it's like to hear a former president of the United States praise you in front of more than 3,000 people.

"It's definitely the highlight of my political career that President Clinton mentioned my name in a speech," McDermott said. "It's really cool."

In a high school gym full of state and local Democratic officials and big-time party fundraisers, Clinton singled out McDermott for special praise at the beginning of his Indianapolis speech rallying Hoosier Democrats prior to Election Day.

"Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond, Ind., thank you for a lot of things that you and I know about — standing up, among other things, for the right to vote and the rule of law and all the good stuff," Clinton said. "Thank you for what you've done."

In 2008, McDermott led the Northwest Indiana effort for then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.

McDermott famously got into a shouting match on CNN with then-Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, a Barack Obama supporter, as the counting of Lake County's primary election ballots lasted long into the night.

McDermott also was by Hillary Clinton's side during the campaign on the night she downed a shot of Crown Royal whiskey at a Crown Point restaurant.

On Friday, McDermott was invited by party officials to meet with Clinton backstage and work with U.S. Senate candidate Joe Donnelly and Indiana gubernatorial candidate John Gregg on the former president's speech.

"He was making sure what he was going to say was going to help the campaigns," said McDermott, chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party.

McDermott said during his 10 minutes with the president he invited Clinton to campaign in Northwest Indiana. Clinton didn't rule it out, he said. 

"Obviously I'm selfish for the region; I want him to come north and we're working on that," McDermott said. "He's a very busy man, as you'd imagine."

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