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Richard Hatcher, one of 1st black mayors of major city, dead at 86

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Former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, who became one of the first black mayors of a big U.S. city when he was elected in 1967, has died. He was 86.

Hatcher died Friday night at a Chicago hospital, said his daughter, Indiana state Rep. Ragen Hatcher, a Gary Democrat. She did not provide a cause of her father’s death.

The Hatcher family said in a statement that “in the last days of his life, he was surrounded by his family and loved ones.”

“While deeply saddened by his passing, his family is very proud of the life he lived, including his many contributions to the cause of racial and economic justice and the more than 20 years of service he devoted to the city of Gary,” the family added.

Hatcher had to overcome opposition from the local Democratic machine to become mayor of what was then Indiana’s second-largest city in a surprise victory in 1967. He went on to serve five terms.

Hatcher became the political face of Gary and a political force for blacks after his groundbreaking election. He organized the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary and served as chairman of Jesse Jackson’s Democratic presidential campaign in 1984 and vice chairman four years later.

But his mayorship was also marred by the steel city’s deterioration.

The election of Hatcher, then a 34-year-old activist, lawyer and City Council president, sparked high emotions in Gary. He defeated incumbent A. Martin Katz in the primary by more than 2,300 votes, prompting a celebration that forced police to shut down a six-block section of Broadway for four hours.

The celebration was short-lived. When Hatcher refused to allow Lake County Democratic leaders to pick the city’s police chief, city attorney and fill other major positions in Hatcher’s administration, party Chairman John Krupa told him the party wouldn’t support Hatcher during the general election. Not only that, the party worked for his Republican opponent, Joseph Radigan.

Although Gary hadn’t had a Republican mayor since 1938, it was a difficult challenge for a campaign that had spent most of its money on the primary and now had no party to back it. Hatcher managed to raise $8,000 to run full-page campaign ads in The New York Times and the Post-Tribune in Gary. The ad read, “Richard Hatcher is battling bigotry and ignorance. And he needs your help.”

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Those ads brought in more than $250,000, drew invitations to appear on TV and radio shows, and attracted the attention of Sen. Robert Kennedy, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and others who held fundraisers.

“It was unbelievable,” Hatcher, who kept a framed copy of the ad on his office wall, said in a 2011 interview with The Associated Press. “We ended up having enough money to run a decent campaign.”

He gave credit for his election to the city’s black residents, who made up slightly more than half of Gary’s population of about 175,000 residents in 1967 but trailed whites in the number of registered voters.

“There was a tremendous spirit in the city and the black community was very united,” he said. “I think I received about 7% of the white vote. The other white candidates divided up the white vote, they really split it, which made it possible for me to win.”

During his inauguration speech, Hatcher said his primary goal was to make the city a decent place to live for his “brothers and sisters.”

“Gary is a rising sun. Together, we shall beat a way; together, we shall turn darkness into light, despair into hope and promise into progress,” he said.

Hatcher attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to Gary in his 20 years in office, some of which was used to build low-cost housing and the first public housing units in the city in nearly two decades. He also got federal funds for jobs training; repaved deteriorating streets; and put many inner-city neighborhoods on regular garbage collection for the first time.

The changes extended to City Hall. When he was elected, only two of the city’s department heads were black. A decade later, 25 of the city’s 40 department heads, including the police and fire chiefs, were black.

Even before he became mayor, Hatcher was making changes. As a member of the City Council, he helped pass an open housing law to end restrictive property covenants that forced blacks to live primarily in Gary’s midtown section.

But Hatcher couldn’t stop Gary’s decline, which coincided with that of the U.S. steel industry. The company town, founded in 1906 by U.S. Steel Chairman Elbert H. Gary, had flourished as the industry did. While Hatcher was in office, U.S. Steel cut its workforce from 35,000 in the early 1970s to 25,000 by the early 1980s.

Businesses were shuttered as banks and shops moved to the suburbs. Crime increased, and by 1984, Gary had the nation’s highest per-capita homicide rate.

Many white residents fled the city. The percentage of blacks grew to 71 percent by 1980, up from 53 percent a decade earlier.

By the time Hatcher left office in 1987, the city had lost 50,000 residents. When Hatcher lost the primary, police again shut down Broadway so people could celebrate.

Hatcher told the AP that he was proud of his accomplishments in office. “Maybe for some people in Gary it may not be better. But for others it may seem very much better,” he said in 2011.

Richard Gordon Hatcher was born July 10, 1933, in Michigan City, Indiana. He was one of 13 children whose father molded railroad car wheels and whose mother was a factory worker. He graduated from Indiana University, earned a law degree from Valparaiso University and moved to Gary after becoming a deputy prosecutor.

He married his wife, Ruthellyn, in 1976. They had three daughters, Ragen, Rachelle and Renee.

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Boris plans to give tax cuts to millions as he vows to help those at 'breaking point'

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BORIS JOHNSON last night hinted at a Budget tax cut for millions by declaring his desire to “help” ease the financial burdens on working people.

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Mitch McConnell’s impeachment tactics could win the trial but lose him the Senate

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may have successfully corralled his Republican colleagues Tuesday to defeat 11 efforts by Senate Democrats to subpoena key Trump administration witnesses and documents (and modify other rules) in the Senate impeachment trial. But these tactics have likely put Republican senators facing competitive races in an impossible bind; two January polls show that, in both battleground states and swing counties, more voters support Trump’s removal than approve of him. That dynamic could cost the Republicans control of the Senate after the 2020 elections — and, in that event, McConnell’s powerful post as majority leader will also be forfeited.

McConnell successfully tabled 10 of 11 Democrat-offered amendments by a party line vote of 53-47 (Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, sided with the Democrats on the eleventh), most of which sought to subpoena key Trump administration witnesses and documents to be evidence in the Senate trial. But the collateral damage could be grave.

Because of McConnell’s strong-arming, every Republican senator is now on the record opposing subpoenas requiring former national security adviser John Bolton, Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials to testify. These votes will be fodder for Democratic campaign ads against vulnerable Republican senators who are standing for re-election this year — particularly in Maine, Colorado and Arizona. (Remember that 71 percent of Americans in a December poll by The Washington Post/ABC News thought Trump should allow his aides to testify.)

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Some of these senators have left open the possibility that they may support calling witnesses if, after the House managers and the president’s lawyers complete their separate presentations, the Republicans’ expected motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment is defeated.

That may well be a hollow gesture because it is hardly a foregone conclusion that a motion to dismiss the articles will be defeated. If the Senate does dismiss the impeachment charges without hearing witnesses or completing the trial, the “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude of Republican senators will clearly clash with most Americans’ sense of what constitutes a fair trial.

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If, however, Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, were to join some more politically vulnerable Republican senators in voting against dismissing the articles of impeachment, they would undermine the Republican talking point that the impeachment lacks any valid factual or legal basis. Still, the public may not even see and hear the senators’ reasons for voting against dismissal. In the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton, for instance, the Senate chose — by a 53-47 vote — to bar the public from its debate. (So much for transparency.)

But if the Senate does not dismiss the charges, a ban on witnesses would be a stark break with precedent in every impeachment trial in American history, whether of presidents, judges or other officials; all have heard from witnesses. President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial in 1868, for example, heard from 25 witnesses for the prosecution and 16 defense witnesses. In the Clinton impeachment, the Senate allowed testimony from three named witnesses — accuser Monica Lewinsky and Clinton associates Vernon Jordan Jr. and Sidney Blumenthal— each of whom testified in nonpublic videotaped depositions, excerpts of which were presented in the public Senate trial.

In following the Clinton model — as McConnell initially promised — no bombshell moment would have occurred in the Trump trial even if Bolton or Mulvaney had testified, because their evidence would have been prepackaged in a deposition rather than heard live by the senators. Thus, even grudging Republican support for these limited witnesses under that model would win no accolades from swing voters, and would still alienate staunch Trump supporters who simply want a “win” for their side.

If the Senate ultimately voted to hear any witnesses, the Republican senators who supported that would likely be attacked by President Donald Trump’s ardent base for flip-flopping and abandoning him; a Senate trial with witnesses would infuriate the White House and defeat the pledge by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to make impeachment “die quickly” in the Senate. And the change might not garner its Republican advocates much support from independent or Democratic voters because their vote for witnesses will be belated and limited, undermining any benefits for the politically vulnerable.

All of this suggests that McConnell’s tactics may well ensure that Trump will not be convicted by the Senate, but at the cost of losing the Senate majority in the next election, despite his reputation as a master tactician. That reputation was undermined on day one of the Senate trial, when he failed to prevent House managers from using hours of prime-time television coverage Tuesday to lay out — in telling detail — the factual evidence underlying the impeachment article of abuse of power without using a single minute of the 24 hours they’re allowed under the Senate rules to formally make their case against the president. (That presentation began Wednesday.)

But more importantly, McConnell stumbled in failing to protect his Republican Senate colleagues and, in doing so, may have failed to protect his own seat of power.

It will be a heavy price for McConnell to pay if he is relegated to a minority leader role after November (assuming he wins his own re-election in Kentucky) in order to assure that Trump stays in office. It may be an even heavier price for all Republicans to pay if Trump is re-elected, and then faces both a Senate and a House controlled by Democrats.

Related:

Democrats need to call Trump’s bluff on impeachment witnesses

The GOP’s Senate impeachment trial strategy got blown up by Trump’s legal team — for good reason

Trump’s impeachment is depressingly partisan. Here’s why his removal doesn’t have to be.

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Tulsi Gabbard sues Hillary Clinton for $50M, claims defamation over ‘Russian asset’ remark

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Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against Hillary Clinton seeking $50 million in damages, claiming the former Democratic presidential nominee “carelessly and recklessly impugned” her reputation when she suggested in October that one of the 2020 Democratic candidates is “the favorite of the Russians.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, says it aims to hold Clinton and other “political elites” accountable for “distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election.” It also says Gabbard suffered an economic loss to be proven at trial.

Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, responded: “That’s ridiculous.”

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Gabbard, a dark horse candidate who represents Hawaii, was on the campaign trail Wednesday and unavailable for comment about the suit, according to her law firm, Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP.

“Although Rep. Gabbard’s presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks,” Brian Dunne, a partner at the law firm, said in a statement.

Dunne added that Clinton had exhibited a “personal hostility” toward Gabbard last fall, and that the former secretary of state “resorted to a damaging whisper campaign founded on lies, and when presented with the opportunity to retract her damaging remarks, she refused.”

According to the suit, Clinton felt slighted because Gabbard was one of the first Democrats to publicly endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president in 2016 over her, “becoming the most prominent politician to do so at the time.”

Clinton made her remarks during a podcast appearance on “Campaign HQ” with David Plouffe, a Democratic strategist. She did not identify the current Democratic candidate whom she was referring to, but also said Jill Stein was a “Russian asset” as the Green Party candidate in the 2016 election.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and congressional investigations have shown that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election included bolstering Stein’s run.

Later, when asked if Clinton was referring to Gabbard, Merrill said, “If the nesting doll fits … .” He subsequently tweeted that Clinton’s comments were being misrepresented and that she was referring to the Republican Party, not the Russians, grooming Gabbard.

Gabbard seized on Clinton’s remark, accusing her in a tweet of being the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” The spat lasted for several days, with Gabbard saying on the campaign trail that it was bringing her negative attention, and that Clinton refused to retract her statements or apologize.

Monica Alba contributed.



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