Will Daley Appoint Homophobe?

Outgoing alderman wants controversial replacement

If Mayor Richard M. Daley follows precedent, he will appoint a pastor who equates homosexuality to drug addiction to the city council before the month is out.

Daley has until August 1 to fill the council vacancy left by Billy Ocasio, the former 26th Ward alderman who left the job recently to work for Gov. Pat Quinn.

Ocasio has asked the mayor to appoint Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus as his replacement; traditionally Daley has honored such requests from outgoing aldermen - but only, of course, when it suits him politically.

DeJesus may not fit that singular piece of criteria, given the mayor's strong support - up to now - in the gay community.

"Throughout the 26th Ward, and the 4th Congressional District which encompasses it, there is a large LGBT population and, if energized by this man's hatred, they will most certainly organize in 2010 against anyone who has advocated for this misguided appointment," one resident wrote to the Windy City Times.

On the other hand, Daley risks alienating Latino voters who support De Jesus, whose Assemblies of God church in Humboldt Park has been called "massive" by the Tribune.

"[H]is main base of support remains the multiracial crowd of about 4,000 worshipers that attends services, a crowd so large that De Jesus now preaches each week in the auditorium of Clemente High School," the Tribune reports.

But just what does he preach?

"In an interview last year, De Jesus told Christianity Today that his paramount priorities were opposing abortion and homosexuality," the Tribune reports. "In a neighborhood newspaper story about a proposed new high school geared toward gay students, De Jesus raised the specter of a virgin being harassed by gays or lesbians to have sex."

Not that the bar to being a Chicago alderman isn't low, but c'mon!

And if it matters - and there's no indication that it does - DeJesus is nominally a Republican, though a lot of folks think that Daley sort of is too.

Earlier this week, the mayor said he had as many as four "applicants" for the job - because no job as important as alderman should be put to a vote by the people. In Chicago, the mayor gets to fill council openings.

This is probably the only time Daley wishes that wasn't so.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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