Meeks joins Brady at pro-Wal-Mart event

June 23, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Democratic Senator James Meeks, the Baptist preacher who was first elected in 2003 as an independent, is arguably the most politically powerful African-American elected official in Chicago. Wednesday he stunned politicians statewide when he made a pro-Wal-Mart appearance with the Republican candidate for governor.

"Every idea that Republicans have ain't bad, and every idea that Democrats have ain't good," said Meeks.

The Rev. Senator Meeks, who at times still calls himself an independent, cautioned reporters not to consider his appearance with Republican Senator Bill Brady an endorsement of Brady's campaign for governor.

"And I am a candidate for governor and I'm proud to be a candidate for governor and I am a candidate for jobs," said Brady.

The state senators who hold opposing views on an income tax increase agree that retailing giant Wal-Mart should be allowed to build dozens of stores in Chicago to provide thousands of just-over-minimum-wage jobs.

"Just because you have disagreement with a senator on one area, if you agree with him on another area then you should be able to stand together and work on that area," Meeks said.

Brady, who appeared last fall at another proposed Wal-Mart site, has made the company's expansion an issue in his race against Governor Pat Quinn.

"We are here today promoting an agenda that, frankly, the governor's office has failed to promote over the last eight years," said Brady.

"I'm supporting the efforts that he's making today to bring in the jobs. That's what I'm here supporting, the efforts," said Rev. Larry Roberts, community activist.

Some union leaders want Wal-Mart to pay its Chicago employees $1 an hour more than the $8.25 minimum wage.

Governor Quinn said this week he wants Wal-Mart's jobs in Chicago, but also the best deal possible for workers.

"I think they've raised their wage offer a bit. I'd like to see them raise it even more," Quinn said.

Senator Meeks, who also agrees with Senator Brady on school vouchers, was asked if there was any possibility he might eventually endorse the Bloomington Republican for governor.

"All things are possible. That's what the scriptures teach us. All things are possible," said Meeks.

The Chicago City Council Zoning Committee is supposed to consider the Wal-Mart expansion at its meeting Thursday.

Political tongues are wagging around the state over the possibility that Meeks could endorse Brady, and the very fact that Brady is campaigning for African-American votes. Democrat Pat Quinn cannot take black votes for granted.

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