Cancer causes Gary mayor to drop re-election bid

April 8, 2011 4:23:18 PM PDT
The mayor of Gary, Ind., Rudy Clay announced Friday he's dropping his bid for re-election because of cancer.

The mayor of Gary, Ind. Mayor Rudy Clay announced Friday he's dropping his bid for re-election because of prostate cancer.

Long before he became mayor, Rudy Clay was one of Gary's biggest boosters, and he's remained so through his campaign for re-election.

But on Friday, Rudy Clay, 75, stood with his wife and son to announce that he's suspending his campaign after being treated for prostate cancer.

"To cease my campaign is the most difficult, most disappointing decision that I've ever had to make," Clay said.

Clay did not take questions, though he says he does plan to serve out the remainder of his term which expires in December.

"Politics has always been a driving force with him," said Indiana State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, of Clay.

Rogers is a long time friend who believes Clay's ability to forge relationship with state leaders was to Gary's lasting benefit.

"In many instances, what they like to do at the city level is to complain about the state and play the victim's role -- he never did that. He interacted with the government and administration even though they were of different parties," Rogers said.

Still, Gary's fortunes continue to slide. Clay's multimillion dollar vision for a rebuilt business corridor got no traction.

The last census shows the city has lost 22 percent of its population in the last decade. Many neighborhoods are populated only by abandoned homes.

Schools, fire stations and parks have been closed, and the Gary library board -- with a budget so strained -- it voted two weeks ago the close the main library for good at the end of the year.

Clay once likened being mayor of Gary to flying a plane with one wing -- turbulence here, lightning there, financial crises everywhere.

There are nine candidates on the May 3 Democratic primary ballot. It's too late to remove Clay's name, but the dynamics change with the incumbent out.