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Controversial minister endorses Chico

Updated: December 8, 2010 2:48PM

Former Mayor Harold Washington's controversial pastor on Monday endorsed Gery Chico for mayor of Chicago, calling Chico the candidate with the best chance to re-create the multiracial coalition that twice elected Washington.

The endorsement from the Rev. B. Herbert Martin was a boon to Chico and a blow to the three black challengers - U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th), former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. James Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church on the South Side.

"Harold worked hard to build a coalition between the African-American and Latino communities. Gery Chico has the skill and experience to put that coalition back together," said Martin, 68, senior pastor at Progressive Community Church, 56 E. 48th St.

Davis said he has a "tremendous amount of respect" for Martin and counts him as a "personal friend."

"If he thinks Gery can pull together the kind of coalition that Harold Washington was able to put together, he's within his right to feel whatever it is that he feels," Davis said. "I don't think it will bring any votes. People will be voting on the basis of where they think individuals are on issues and their own evaluation of what kind of coalition is needed to govern the city, and who has the best chance of putting it together."

Martin began every day with a 6 a.m. phone call and prayer with Washington and delivered an emotional eulogy at the late mayor's televised funeral. But he's also had his share of controversies.

The biggest occurred after Washington's death, during the furor caused by anti-Semitic and anti-Christian speeches made by Steve Cokely, an aide to then-Mayor Eugene Sawyer. Cokely accused Jews of plotting to establish a world government that oppressed blacks and also accused white doctors, especially Jewish ones, of injecting blacks with the AIDS virus.

When Sawyer hesitated to fire Cokely, Martin opposed the firing on grounds there was a "ring of truth" to Cokely's remarks.

Martin subsequently acknowledged that his remarks about Cokely were insensitive and misunderstood. What he meant to say, he claimed, was that blacks and Jews had a "serious" communication problem.

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