Former 28th Ward alderman Ed Smith. FILE 2009

With just one day to go before the much-anticipated Nov. 4, election, more than 300 African-American ministers are saying they will back Gov. Quinn for reelection on Tuesday, and they insist that the endorsement controversy by some black clergy for Republican candidates is not confusing the black community.

They hosted a press conference Oct. 30, at the Parkway Ballroom on the South Side to make their case.

Led by pastors Walter Turner, Leslie Sanders and Clay Evans, the coalition gave a clarion call to the black community to vote early. Two buses and a van were parked outside of the Parkway, located at 4456 South King Dr., to take people nearby polling places. Sanders said they are urging people to vote early. “Don’t wait until Tuesday. Anything might happen. We can’t have no tricks,” Sanders said.

With some division among black faith leaders over the endorsement of Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner, the ministers wanted to “set the record straight” and let the masses know that those handful of black preachers don’t represent their political choice.

 Those attending the press conference included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, U.S. representatives Danny Davis (7th) and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (1st), as well as state senators Jackie Collins (16th) and Donne Trotter (17th). Markham Mayor David Webb, Jr., joined aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd), William Burns (4th), Toni Foulkes (15th), and former Austin 28th Ward alderman Ed Smith (28th) at the press conference, also attended by community activists and business leaders.

They all wanted to make it clear why Quinn is the better choice for the state of Illinois and for the black community.

“Those who are running opposite against him, we don’t know them,” Rev. Clay Evans said. “People can make you all kinds of promises. It doesn’t mean a thing, but Quinn has integrity. He has character. He’s been concerned not just election time.

“People think they can just come at an election and can buy us off, but they can’t do that,” Evans said, following a round of applause. “We are men and women of the cloth. We know when a person has been doing us well and will continue to do us well. I beg of you brethren and sisters — get behind Quinn. Let’s win with Quinn.”

Preckwinkle was next to speak, adding: “When Pat Quinn came into office, we had one governor in prison and one on the way,” she said, referring to former governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. “It was a very difficult time for our state, and he has restored integrity and confidence in the government by the force of his personality and good deeds.”

Preckwinkle praised Quinn for “supporting our effort to bring people into the Medicaid expansion program that was part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act early.”

Since November 2012, the county has enrolled 92,000 people into the program, Preckwinkle said, adding that Gov. Quinn supports raising the minimum wage, unlike Rauner.

Several others spoke, echoing the message and arguments made earlier.

Last week’s press conference came in response to some black pastors in the city who have publicly expressed support for Rauner, as well as Republican Jim Oberweis, who’s challenging Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin.

West Garfield Park pastor Marshall Hatch and Austin pastor Ira Acree have publicly endorsed the two Republican challengers respectively. Hatch and Acree argue that the black vote should not automatically go to the Democratic Party where it’s traditionally gone. They also argue that the state’s Democratic lawmakers don’t have much to show in way of results despite holding nearly every major elected office in the state.

Concerning the “mixed messages” some black ministers are giving with their Republican endorsements, Rep. Bobby Rush said, “Our community must re-elect Pat Quinn for governor…Some of the confusion that has been leveled by our community by some of our friends, some by members of the clergy and others; it seems as though when you come into contact with a billionaire then somehow you lose your sense of direction.”

Rush added that Quinn’s opponents are asking blacks to “focus on some kind of hype — billionaire hype, and that this billionaire is all of a sudden our friend. Somehow they are trying to redefine what Republicans mean to our community. They are trying to get us to forget about Richard Nixon and George Bush, [Vice President Dick] Chaney and all the rest of those Republicans who have been so hateful and so detrimental to our community.

“I don’t know how they can expect us to forget how the Republicans have treated President Obama for the last 8 years,” Rush said, noting that it was the Republicans who shut down the government and “who cut every social programs, the lifeblood for so many in our community. “How do they want us to forget this recent history and all of a sudden embrace this Republican?” 

Terry Dean contributed to this article. 

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