Richard G. Hatcher, mayor of Gary, Ind., for two decades, announced he is running for his old post because the city has been in "reverse gear" since he left office three years ago.

Hatcher, one of the first blacks to head a major U.S. city when he was elected to his first term in 1967, was defeated by former ally Thomas V. Barnes in a bitter Democratic primary in 1987.

"Not a house has been built, not a brick has been laid, since we left office," Hatcher said when he announced his candidacy last Thursday. "The present leadership has sold out and hocked out. Now it's time for them to get out."

He said Barnes was trying to base Gary's economic future on "gambling and garbage," a reference to the mayor's efforts to attract resort hotels with casino gambling to the city and to earn income from the city's sanitary landfill. Hatcher said he wants to focus on developing the city's airport.

Barnes, who also is black, has not announced whether he will be a candidate for reelection. The primary is May 7; the general election is Nov. 5.

Hatcher said the election will be "a referendum on how Gary has been governed. . . . Voters will have a choice between the politics of the plantation and the politics of empowerment."