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Meeks Courts Gay Voters In Lakeview

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James Meeks at Ann Sather's Restaurant

Rev. and State Sen. James Meeks, a candidate for mayor of Chicago, speaks with reporters after visiting Ann Sather’s restaurant in the Lakeview neighborhood. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayoral candidate James Meeks tried to reach out to gay and lesbian voters on Wednesday, exactly one week after voting against historic legislation to legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

Meeks, a Democratic state senator and pastor of Salem Baptist Church, has been a longtime opponent of gay marriage and has been criticized by the GLBT community for his vote against civil unions.

But as CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, that didn’t stop him from visiting Ann Sather’s restaurant in Lakeview, a popular spot for gays and lesbians in Chicago which is owned by Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the City Council’s first openly gay member.

Just weeks earlier, Meeks also tried to smooth things over with the GLBT community while visiting Equality Chicago and promising in an interview to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.

James Meeks at Ann Sather's Restaurant

Rev. and State Sen. James Meeks, a candidate for mayor of Chicago, meets with voters at Ann Sather's restaurant, a popular spot for the gay and lesbian community. One week earlier, Meeks voted against civil unions for same-sex couples in Illinois (Credit: CBS)

Meeks’ visit to the Halsted-Belmont area on Wednesday was part of his “50 wards in 50 days” tour of Chicago.

He got a polite, if predictably chilly, reception from members of the gay and lesbian community as he arrived at Ann Sather’s on Wednesday.

“I don’t want the one thing that everybody thinks we disagree on to separate us,” Meeks said after his visit.

Asked if he was able to get that point across as he talked to patrons at the restaurant, Meeks said, “There are voters who only know you through a sound bite. They need to see you, they need to hear you, they need to feel you, they need to talk to you. And they could be won over.”

Cameras weren’t allowed to follow Meeks inside the restaurant, even though Tunney knew Meeks would be there and had allowed other politicians to invite camera crews to cover their visits to his restaurant.

More News In The Race For Mayor

Meantime, one question that has been dogging reporters recently has been “Where’s Carol Moseley Braun?” The former U.S. Senator and ambassador hasn’t been seen or heard from in days.

Adviser Mike Noonan said, “She’s been out raising money. … We’re trying to get $3 million in the bank.”

An hour later, a release from Braun proposed so-called “silver alerts” for missing senior citizens, similar to AMBER alerts for missing children.

Another mayoral candidate, Rahm Emanuel, released a new radio ad on Wednesday, targeting African-American voters.

In the ad, Annette Nance Holt, whose son Blair Holt was shot to death on a CTA bus while shielding a classmate from a gunman’s bullet, praised Emanuel for his work to help get federal funding for police officers while he was in Congress and the Clinton administration.

Former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico also got a new endorsement on Wednesday, from Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) and Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who are urging Chicago voters to make history by electing the city’s first Latino mayor.

And, finally, a list is out of the people who will be testifying during the numerous challenges to Emanuel’s candidacy.

The list is topped by Emanuel himself, followed by several friends and neighbors who will be called when the Chicago Board of Elections begins hearing evidence next week.

However, Emanuel will not be attending any of the three candidate forums scheduled for next week.

Sources said Emanuel will take part in debates later during the campaign, perhaps as many as three, but not for a while.

CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.

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