Meeks opens first space devoted to mayor's race

September 14, 2010 (CHICAGO) Among the many possible candidates for mayor of Chicago, a few could have a big impact on the race, including Meeks.

Of all the politicians who might possibly run for mayor of Chicago next year, Meeks is at this point the most serious. He has the political base, an issue to debate, and enough money to begin spending some of it already.

Chicago's Roseland neighborhood is home to the first space devoted to running for mayor of Chicago in 2011. It is where Meeks has taken the most serious steps of any unofficial candidate.

"The space that we're in is a petition center. We are gathering petitions out of this place and we're registering voters," said Meeks.

Meeks is the head pastor of the 20,000-member Salem Baptist Church. He won his Illinois Senate seat running as an independent in 2002. Since then he has continued his Sunday sermons, and if elected mayor, Meeks says it will not necessitate him giving up the pulpit.

"I think that the city needs a uniter and not a divider. I think that the city needs somebody who's passionate about education," Meeks said.

He chairs the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and the state senate's education committee.

Meeks joined the Republican caucus during the last session to support school vouchers so kids in the worst Chicago public schools could attend private schools.

"I became a strong proponent for vouchers after being a strong proponent for education funding. I still believe that we have to have proper resources to fund our educational system," said Meeks.

Meeks lives with his wife in the Far South Side Roseland neighborhood, where he says he has spent much his time during the past week studying the city budget, which is projected to be $655 million in the red.

"I am also in the preparatory stage of planning and looking at the budget, and looking at possible solutions," said Meeks.

Meeks also works at what for now is being called the petition office, and in less than a week, he has had t-shirts printed with a mayoral campaign slogan, "People first."

"People should feel as if the candidate that they're voting for will put them first, first before special interest groups, first before themselves, first before getting elected to office the next time when they haven't been elected the first time," said Meeks.

Meeks said if Mayor Daley had decided to run again he would not have challenged the incumbent. He wants to get several times the 12,500 valid signatures needed to get on the ballot.

Also noteworthy is that Meeks will put hundreds of volunteers -- many of them church members -- on the street registering new voters.

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