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Mayoral hopefuls head to churches

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

From the pulpits of South Side churches, mayoral candidates told worshippers Sunday how good Chicago can be and how bad their rivals are.

“I’ve called out another candidate in this race. . . . He voted against the Congressional Black Caucus 128 times. He voted against sending water to drought-starved Africa. He voted against a pharmacy school at Chicago State University,” Carol Moseley Braun told congregants at the Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn, referring to front-runner Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel had stood with his family at the same podium earlier Sunday being warmly received by churchgoers. Emanuel -- who admitted Sunday “it might take one or two bites at the apple,” a run-off election if he doesn’t win outright Tuesday -- had not publicly disclosed that appearance or three other church stops until after they happened. He did disclose that he was following rival Gery Chico to the podium at the Rev. James Meeks’ Salem Baptist Church in Roseland.

“I’m a little nervous ... I grew up in a home about the separation of church and state,” Emanuel told worshippers in the massive church. “This is a pulpit. It’s intended to steer the ship of the soul. I’m used to speaking from a podium where you steer the ship of state.”

The African-American congregation politely cheered when he talked about education: “The most important things we can do for our children is to get parents off the sidelines and get them involved in their education.”

Emanuel got a mostly enthusiastic reception walking around a Jewel Supermarket in Portage Park. Many shoppers told him they voted for him.

“You’ve run a great campaign,” musician Jeff Thomas, 57, told him.

“Can I count on ya?” Emanuel asked.

“Uh, you know what, I’d kind of like to see a run-off -- I want to hear you go at it a little more,” Thomas told him.

As Emanuel walked away, Thomas said he would probably vote for Emanuel or Chico, who the polls predict has the best chance of forcing Emanuel into a run-off Tuesday.

“When I say Rahm Emanuel has run a great campaign, he has run a very savvy campaign,” Thomas said. “He has not made himself available. He makes his statements and he gets away before anyone can question him too thoroughly on things that he probably doesn’t want to have to go into. I’d like a little more time for people to delve a little more. I’d like to hear what Gery Chico has to say.”

Chico got cheers from Meeks’ parishioners Sunday when he said, “Too many children are finding the wrong path.” That path is not into churches, Chico said. “We need more children in church.”

Chico, Braun and Miguel del Valle all urged voters Sunday not to believe the polls or pundits telling them that Emanuel is too far ahead to lose. Ninety percent of the votes have not been cast yet.

“Whatever your preference is, you use your own gut. Do not let the media and others tell you who the candidate is,” Chico said from the pulpit. “I’m going to break down the mistrust that exists between the Hispanic and the African-American communities in Chicago.”

Del Valle likewise hop-scotched churches around the city. He told diners at El Nandu restaurant he hit four churches and worshippers kept telling him he won the debates.

“With all due respect to all our media friends here, I’ve heard from several people today this race is not over,” del Valle said. “People have come up to me today and said, ‘Miguel, you won all the debates.’ I think we are going to see some surprises. I intend to be one of the two candidates in the run-off. This is a surge.”

Braun is an old friend of Apostolic Church of God Pastor Byron Brazier and his late father Bishop Arthur Brazier. And Braun displayed far more comfort embracing religion than Emanuel:

“Every step of the way, God’s grace has given me the ability to work for the people, to keep my promises. I did my best. I delivered for the people,” she told the congregants. “Together, with God’s help, God’s wisdom, we will win on Tuesday. Thank you. Praise the Lord.”

Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins spoke at three churches Sunday.

About 55 percent of adult black males in Chicago have felony records, she said, citing a study.

“The government has a responsibility to create positive intervention when you see something like that happening,” Watkins said. The government needs to change the laws and take a different approach, she said.

“Rahm Emmauel is an extension of what we had,” she said.

The candidates for mayor shared pulpit space with aldermanic candidates likewise mixing campaigning with worshipping.

Contributing, Cheryl V. Jackson

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