Prominent Austin pastor endorses Lightfoot

Rev. Ira Acree says he's among first pastors to support the openly gay candidate

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By Michael Romain

Editor

On March 10, Rev. Ira Acree, the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave. in Austin, endorsed mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot. The endorsement came on the heels of Willie Wilson's endorsement of Lightfoot. Both endorsements could help Lightfoot shore up her support in the city's African American community, particularly among black churchgoers. 

Acre announced his endorsement of Lightfoot, over Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, on Sunday. During a follow-up interview on Monday, Acree said that he was only endorsing on behalf of himself and not the church or any organizations he's affiliated with. He also added that he's the first black pastor he knows who has endorsed Lightfoot. 

"After much prayer and contemplation it soon became very clear to me who the next leader of our city should be," he explained in the statement. "Many of us on the South and West Side have grown very weary and tired of the continuous disinvestment on our side of town. We are so sick of the political corruption and very disturbed by the mass exodus of African Americans from this city, because of the decline in their quality of life. Some of us have in fact called this mayoral election our last stand."

Acree, who is the co-chairman of the Leaders Network, a faith-based social justice organization on the West Side, called Lightfoot, who would be the city's first African American female openly gay mayor, "a triple minority" who "understand the struggle." 

"As an accomplished federal prosecutor, a police accountability advocate and as an anti-machine mayoral candidate, she also understands perseverance and success," Acree said. "She is a triple threat." 

The endorsement from Acree happened less than a week after Wilson, the businessman and former mayoral candidate who came in fourth in the Feb. 26 election, which featured nearly historically low voter turnout across the city. Across the West Side, turnout was not more than 30 percent, according to Chicago election data. 

Lighfoot secured nearly 18 percent of the vote while Preckwinkle garnered roughly 16 percent and Daley garnered nearly 15 percent. Wilson earned around 11 percent of the vote citywide, according to city election data. 

Wilson handily won the 24th, 28th, 29th and 37th Wards, according to election data analysis by WBEZ. 

Wilson's and Acree's endorsements could be a strong signal that Lightfoot's sexuality may not be as big an issue in the black community as some political observers speculated it would be. 

"Black people, at the end of the day, are like any other ethnic group," Acree said. "They have their biases, but when they go inside the booth they vote their interests. We are against adultery and extramarital affairs, but we still supported Bill Clinton. We know how to support our interests. Lightfoot benefits our interests. Regular people don't benefit from machine politics. We need someone to advocate for the little guy."  

Wilson announced his endorsement on March 8. That day, Preckwinkle convened a coalition of faith-based leaders who are supporting her, including Phalese Binion, the president of the West Side Minister's Coalition.

"One thing we don't need is for someone to come in who is learning how to be mayor with all of the issues that this city is having," Binion said. 

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com 

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