Council seats up for grabs as May election nears
Crusader Staff Report
With the elections just over three weeks away, the crowded race for Gary mayor heats up.
Some eight candidates are seeking the city’s highest office currently held by Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary’s first Black female mayor. She has built a record of eliminating blight in the city while boosting employment and companies relocating to the city. She is running for a third term, but her opponents are seeking to unseat her.
According to the Lake County Elections Office, Freeman-Wilson’s opponents are: Mildred (Tinye) Alcorn, Jerome Prince, Carl (Dooze) Jones, Eddie Tarver, Jr., James Edward McKnight II, Kerry Rice Sr., Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, and Joe White.
On April 6, the candidates participated in a mayoral forum at the Glen Theatre. Candidates vying for seats on the Gary City Council also participated in the forum, which was sponsored by NAACP, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the National Council of Negro Women and the Urban League.
One of Freeman-Wilson’s biggest opponents is Prince, who served as a city councilman from 2000 to 2008 and as a former Gary representative on the Lake County Council from 2008 to 2014. Prince has been the boss of the city’s Democratic Party since 2016. He currently oversees the setting of real estate values for taxing purposes for about 240,000 parcels across the county.
A vocal critic of Freeman-Wilson, Sparks-Wade turned up her criticism against the mayor last year and led an effort to subpoena the mayor after it was discovered that city officials dipped into the Gary Fire Department Emergency Medical Services Account Fund 224 to the tune of $4.8 million without getting approval from the city council. The effort fizzled after it was determined that the city council had no legal authority to subpoena an individual. Freeman-Wilson maintained that all monies spent from the fund went for city expenses and ordered a state audit.
Freeman-Wilson, a two-time Harvard graduate, has won mayoral terms in 2011 and 2015. Although Gary’s economy has been slow in rebounding, the city has shown signs of an economic recovery with several companies opening plants that will create hundreds of jobs. Earlier this year, four former Gary mayors praised Freeman-Wilson’s leadership in turning the city around.
In January, Sparks-Wade was injured in a domestic argument with former Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington, who shared his house with Sparks-Wade. Washington—twice-convicted for past domestic violence involving female family members—allegedly barricaded himself inside the home in the 3900 block of Martin Luther King Drive according to officials.
On February 5, the Council voted 6-0 to prohibit Washington from attending council proceedings after he was charged with five felonies. Washington initially entered the race for one of the city’s three at-large councilman seats, but he is no longer on the official list of candidates running for a spot on the City Council. Washington spent six weeks in county jail before he was released by posting $5,000 cash bond on March 13.
The move came despite concerns from Lake County prosecutors who argued that Washington’s past criminal history made him too dangerous to release.
There are 17 candidates running for three at-large Gary City Council seats.
Councilmen Mike A. Brown, Herb Smith and Ronald G. “Ron” Brewer, Sr. are defending their at-large seats against Robert L. Buggs, Sr., Clorius L. Lay, Jayson Reeves, Patrick “Ken” Barry, Ethel Jeanette Williams, Willie G. Stewart Jr., Robert L. Campbell, James Brandon Dillon, Milcah T. Robinson, Antuwan V. Clemons, Jacqueline “Jackie” Lee and Versie C. Chatman.
In the 1st District, Councilwoman Rebecca “Becky” Wyatt is opposed by William G. Godwin. In the 2nd District, Councilman Michael L. Protho’s opponents are David “Big Dave” Rodriguez, Kevin Deshawn McKinney, Portia C. Newsome, and Cozey Witherspoon.
In the 3rd District, Councilwoman Mary Brown is opposed by Tracy A. Coleman. In the 4th District, Councilwoman Carolyn D. Rogers is not running for re-election. Seeking to replace her are Tai Adkins, Norman Bailey, Bruce McKenzie, Nathaniel “Nate” Williams, Nate Hall, and Kendra S. Johnson.
In the 5th District, Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell’s opponents are Cliff “Fighting 4 the 5th” Caldwell and Carl “The Spoon” Weatherspoon, Jr.
In the 6th District, the candidates seeking to replace incumbent Councilwoman Sparks-Wade include Dwight A. “Twin” Williams, Omar (Carl Hemphill) M. Abdallah, Stanley Fields, Jacqueline “Jacquese” White, and Shelita Miller.