Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis has nabbed the support of Rev. Corey Brooks, who runs the New Beginnings Church of Chicago on the city's South Side.
Oberweis, the Illinois state senator and dairy mogul based in the western suburbs, is making a play for incumbent Democrat Dick Durbin's U.S. Senate seat this election cycle. Durbin, on the offense, has enlisted President Obama for help in raising money amid fears that conservative PACs might out-spend his campaign for a fourth term in office.
In an announcement Thursday, via the Chicago Sun-Times, Team Oberweis revealed Brooks' endorsement and quoted the minister as saying: "I do not support Democrats or Republicans automatically. I support the men or women who are more likely to help our community, no matter what label they wear. Jim Oberweis has demonstrated to me he cares about our problems and will work hard on the solutions."
Brooks launched New Beginnings in Woodlawn circa 2000 and has since grown its congregation to more than 2,500 parishioners. The preacher-activist made headlines recently for his three-month stint camping out on the roof of a vacant motel/drug den across the street from his church. The stunt led to the demolition of the building in 2012, thanks to a $100,000 donation from Atlanta-based filmmaker Tyler Perry.
Last Sunday, Oberweis visited the tough neighborhood to sign up for Brooks' "Brothers on the Block" organization, wherein volunteers will cover 500 of the most violent Chicago blocks on Friday nights this summer as part of a grassroots effort to curb crime in gun-and-gang-plagued areas.
"Pastor Brooks is a dedicated, courageous community leader who is fighting hard every day to improve the lives of people of Chicago and I’m honored to have his support," Oberweis said in a statement. "I want to help him improve his neighborhood and all neighborhoods in Illinois that have struggled under the political leadership of Dick Durbin and his allies."
Durbin, meanwhile, is taking on issues on the national stage. On Thursday, he pressed the House of Representatives to pass the Senate's comprehensive immigation bill and met with embattled Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, vowing to put him "on the spot" over allegations that veteran hospitals manipulated patient wait lists. Later in the day, Durbin -- with Obama in tow -- will fly to Chicago for two re-election fundraisers in his honor.
Although Durbin's campaign war chest contains $6 million-and-counting, as compared with Oberweis' six-digit stash, the DC veteran is reportedly uneasy about a series of big spends by Tea Party PACs that funneled thousands of dollars into local anti-Durbin ads.
As it happens, the GOP -- still smarting from 2012 -- has begun to pour more money into voter outreach here in Illinois. Strategies include dispatching staffers to set up shop on the district level and building relationships with African-American residents, among other initiatives.