Pastor Corey Brooks to endorse Jim Oberweis

Jim Oberweis, left, and Pastor Corey Brooks. (Abel Uribe, left, Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

A South Side pastor who is highly visible in Chicago’s black community endorsed Republican candidate Jim Oberweis on Thursday in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

The Rev. Corey Brooks, known as the “rooftop pastor” because he once slept for three months atop a shuttered motel to protest violence, said some Democrats had taken the African-American vote for granted and black voters shouldn’t rule out candidates simply because of their party affiliation.

“Our community has suffered a lot under Democratic policies, and a lot of what we’re experiencing, some of those policies have been promoted by a large amount of Democrats,” said Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church of Chicago.

Oberweis, a state senator from west suburban Sugar Grove, told the Tribune in an interview Thursday that his private foundation, the Oberweis Foundation, had donated money in the past for a community center that Brooks hopes to build across the street from his South Side church.

“To the best of my memory, it was less than $1,000, but I don’t remember,” Oberweis said, adding that he hoped his foundation would make more contributions to the project in the future.

Oberweis also said he wanted to attract more support from black pastors.

“I hope that there will be others, but we’ll wait and see,” he said. “There are others I have met with and spoken to. Time will tell. There is a good reason for other pastors to endorse me.”

Oberweis said he had made two or three trips to inner-city neighborhoods since his primary win in March, while spending much of his time in Springfield on legislative business.

Chiefly, he said, he learned that the country’s current economic policies have not helped the poor and middle-class “regardless of the rhetoric of Dick Durbin.”

Oberweis is the part owner of a dairy and ice cream business and two investment firms that carry his name. Brooks said he believes job creation is key to stemming violence on the South Side, and said he was impressed with Oberweis’ experience in that area. He also cited Oberweis’ views on education.

Oberweis said he supports merit pay for teachers and a host of options: charter schools, magnet schools, parochial schools and home schooling. “The more competition in the educational system, the better the final product will be,” he said.

Brooks, who frequently serves as a family spokesman for crime victims, said he was raised a Democrat but is currently a political independent. The Park Manor neighborhood pastor said he disagrees with Oberweis on some issues, though he declined to cite them.

Brooks said he has never met Durbin, the Democratic incumbent who has been in the Senate since 1997. But the pastor said Oberweis has been a regular on the South Side, and that the two “have had very candid conversations.”

“The fact that he keeps coming to the South Side, I appreciate that,” Brooks said. “He keeps asking questions, he wants to know more and he wants to more specifically about African-Americans and our viewpoints on things.”

Ron Holmes, a Durbin campaign spokesman, said Illinois’ senior senator is engaged on black issues and attuned to the South Side. Holmes cited a recent meeting with African-American clergy and a trip to Chicago’s predominantly black Woodlawn neighborhood as evidence of Durbin’s engagement.

“The black community isn’t monolithic and, over the course of the election, there will be people supporting various candidates,” Holmes said. “But that’s not a sign or barometer of support in the black community.”

Oberweis was asked by the Tribune whether he had lent his campaign any money after a half-million loan last Dec. 31. He said he hadn’t and that his fundraising had been going “OK, but not as well as I would like.”

mitsmith@tribune.com

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