Updated: 10/24/10 5:42 p.m.

Quinn, Brady Talk To Black Voters At South Side Church

CHICAGO (AP) – Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bill Brady focused on education, family values and President Barack Obama on Sunday in one of their final pitches to black voters at a major Chicago mega-church.

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The appearances took place against the backdrop of a Quinn supporter accusing Brady of racism just a day earlier.

Quinn, who drew hearty applause, cheers and standing ovations, heavily emphasized the need for voters to show support for Obama and Democrats.

“I’m with him and he’s with me,” Quinn told thousands of congregants during services at Salem Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side. “We changed the guard in 2008. Now we’ve got to guard the change.”

Meanwhile, Brady, who drew a more polite applause, focused on family issues. He spoke with his wife, Nancy, at his side and talked about their 28-year marriage, three children and schools.

“Illinois isn’t doing well for families,” Brady said. “We have seen a governor that has failed to deliver on promises.”

Afterward, Brady called on Quinn to apologize for comments made the day before by state Sen. Rickey Hendon. The outspoken state legislator introduced Quinn at a Chicago rally where he called Brady “racist,” “sexist” and “homophobic.”

Quinn, who stopped short of apologizing, told reporters that he did not agree with Hendon’s comments and that he was not a name-caller.

“They were inappropriate,” he said. “I don’t endorse those comments.”

Hendon has said he won’t take back the comments, claiming Brady has voted for legislation that adversely affects minorities, women and gays, including his vote against protecting gay people from discrimination in employment and housing. Hendon has said he is running for Chicago mayor.

The state’s close gubernatorial race has been ranked one of 14 nationwide where black voters can have a significant impact on the outcome, according to a report this month by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington.

And Salem Baptist, with its 10,000-seat arena called “House of Hope,” has long been a place for political candidates to campaign.

The church is led by Rev. James Meeks, a Democratic state senator mulling a run for Chicago mayor, who has focused heavily on education. He led several highly publicized school funding protests in 2008 at an affluent suburban Chicago school and a Cubs game.

Churchgoer Jean Williams, 52, said she planned to vote for Brady, who is from Bloomington and whom she believes has done a better job appealing to an audience outside of Chicago.

“Quinn is not going to do what he says he’s going to do,” she said.

But 43-year-old Chicagoan Joe Moore, who was gathering signatures for Meeks’ mayoral run, disagreed.

“He’s my candidate,” he said. “I trust him. He’s for the people.”

Nearly 15 percent of Illinois’ 13 million people are black, according to 2009 U.S. Census data estimates. The majority are concentrated in Cook County.

The Joint Center study says 13.8 percent of the state’s black population is of voting age and 62 percent voted in the 2008 presidential election and nearly 48 percent in 2006.

Quinn needs a strong showing in Cook County to counter Brady’s downstate advantage, and that will depend in large part on whether black voters show up to support him.

On Sunday, both candidates praised Meeks and the church, but not without digs at the other candidate.

Brady opened his speech by saying it was his first time attending services at the mega-church, which Quinn countered right away in his speech.

“It’s not my first time at House of Hope,” he said in a speech full of Biblical references and praise for the church’s approximately 100-member choir which sang behind him.

Either way, the speeches didn’t rouse all the congregants.

John Swanagain, a 62-year-old retiree from the suburb of Lynwood, said he would likely vote for Quinn because he thinks Brady is too conservative for opposing abortion and gay marriage. But he said neither candidate has thrilled him.

“It was a bunch of political hokey,” he said of the speeches. “We’ve heard it before.”

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