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Alderman show support for possible Meeks run for governor

Monday, March 27, 2006

A big show of support Monday for a Democratic state senator who is considering a bid for Illinois governor. James Meeks met with more than a dozen of Chicago's African-American aldermen. The aldermen say they would support Meeks if he ran for governor as an independent.

The possibility of South Side pastor-politician James Meeks running for governor as an independent is now more than whisper. Meeks met with 14 of Chicago's 19 black aldermen Monday morning, and the result of that meeting exposed what could become a huge crack in the Democratic party's foundation.

"The African-American vote will not be taken for granted," said Meeks.

Following their closed door meeting with the Reverend Senator Meeks, the aldermen and several state representatives expressed their dissatisfaction with Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich.

"We're meeting now to see if we want to get rid of him or how we're going to get rid of him or how soon," said Ald. William Beavers, 7th Ward.

"He's not delivered any goods to our community and we're going to figure out a way to get rid of him or get a piece of the pie," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.

Meeks was elected to the state senate in 2002 as an independent. He splits time between Springfield and ministering to his 17,000-member Salem Baptist Church. He is threatening to run for governor as an independent unless Blagojevich agrees to work toward increasing state funding to public education.

"Let's not be 49th in education. Let's not deny education funding in the fifth richest state," Meeks said.

"God bless him, he has every right to pursue issue he cares about," said Governor Blagojevich.

Monday, the governor indicated no plans to negotiate with Meeks. He says to change the formula for funding public education would require a tax increase.

"I think it's wrong to ask the hardworking people of Illinois for more money out of their checks. They're struggling enough as it is," said the governor.

A Meeks candidacy in the general election might siphon away black voters from Blagojevich. But the reverend senator, who opposes abortion and gay marriage, believes he also would collect votes he says Illinois Republicans have taken for granted.

"I believe that the moral values crowd who rose up so strongly in the last national election is alive in Illinois," said Meeks.

Elsewhere, Mayor Daley warned that Meeks could endanger the entire Democratic ticket in November.

"I just hope they get together," Daley said.

But the Reverend Jesse Jackson called Meeks posturing to run "a brilliant move."

"The very idea of opening up the process is an idea whose time has come," said Jackson.

Tuesday, Meeks may legally begin collecting the 25,000 signatures he will need to get on the November ballot. He also would have to file an entire slate of independent candidates.

Meeks said Monday he has already made contact with other large Christian congregations in the suburbs and downstate that would help him if he does decide to run for governor.

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