Indiana State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, declared victory in the Democratic primary race for Gary Mayor on Tuesday night shortly after his opponent, incumbent Mayor Jerome Prince, called to concede.
Unofficial vote tallies on Tuesday night showed Melton leading Prince by just under 18%.
As the results rolled in, Melton addressed supporters at a campaign event held at the U.S. Steel Yard stadium, laying out a triumphant vision for future of a city challenged by blight, crime and population decline.
“What we’ve accomplished together tonight will change the trajectory of the city not just in five years not just in 10 years, but now, 50 years and beyond,” he said. “Because of us Gary will rise from the ashes to soon become a beacon of life, an example to cities across the nation and more than merely a shadow of Chicago. Mark my words, if we work together, Gary will have the greatest comeback story in this nation.”
As the presumptive Democratic nominee in the Democrat-dominated city of Gary, Melton is expected to handily defeat Republican candidate Andrew Delano in the November general election and become the city’s next mayor.
Prince, who now faces a long lame-duck session, voiced his desire to work with Melton as well as to remain hard at work on his own agenda through the end of his term.
“I implore you to work with the Mayor-elect,” he told supporters, “but listen, I’ve got seven more months and we’ve started a lot of good stuff.”
Prince has had a nearly three decade-long career in city and county politics that began when he joined the Calumet Township Assessor’s Office as a real estate deputy in 1994. He was elected mayor in 2019, handily defeating then-mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson amid a crowded eight-candidate Democratic primary field.
After taking office in 2020, Prince led the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, oversaw the distribution of nearly all of the city’s $80.3 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, started a youth summer employment program, and entered into a partnership with the Indiana State Police aimed at reforming the Gary Police Department.
Melton, who works for the Northern Indiana Public Service Company as its manager of governmental and community relations, is serving his second term in the Indiana State Senate. Throughout his campaign, he made it clear that he viewed Prince’s first term as a failure. Melton criticized the mayor for his abortive attempt to sell Gary’s disused Genesis Convention Center to an out-of-state tech manufacturer — a deal that ended in the company defaulting on the sale and being sued by the city — and for not naming a permanent police chief since taking office. He framed his candidacy as a vehicle for real change and touted the state legislature’s passage of a bill he wrote that would lay the groundwork for a new Lake County Convention Center and establish a demolition fund for Gary’s blighted properties.
Since declaring his mayoral run in November, Melton accrued a bevy of endorsements, including Gary’s Police, Teachers and Firefighters unions, the United Steelworkers District 7, and three of the surviving members of the Jackson 5.