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Chicago Democrats Make Appeal To Republican Candidates


Finding a Republican in Chicago can be as difficult as finding a palm tree in the South Pole. There are 50 aldermen in the Chicago City Council; not one is a Republican. It's been that way, more or less, for 50 years, especially on the South Side, which has a huge African American population, is President Obama's political home and site of his future library. But a well-known Chicago clergyman, who is African American, has become, pointedly, active Republican and hopes others may follow. Pastor Corey Brooks, of the New Beginnings Church of Chicago, has invited all of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates to speak to his congregation. Pastor Brooks joins us now from our studios in Chicago. Thanks so much for being with us.

COREY BROOKS: Glad to be on your show.

SIMON: Pastor, why have you made this appeal to Republicans?

BROOKS: Well, for far too long, Democrats have taken advantage of our community and just always felt as if we're just going to be there for them without having to do the things that are necessary in our community. The Republican Party has overlooked this, simply because they thought that - out of tradition and out of culture - that we're going to continue to just vote the same way all the time, but that is definitely not true. And if the Republican Party would be so kind to reach out, I'm sure that they will find a group of people who are interested in their policies and their practices.

SIMON: Do you believe there are Republican candidates with policies that interest you more?

BROOKS: Absolutely. I think school choice is a big thing. And I think, educationally, that African-American children should have the same privilege that all other children that come from well-to-do families have. And that is they should be able to go to any school that is a good school, and they should not be regulated to poor-performing schools in their community just because they live in a certain ZIP code or certain area code.

SIMON: What about employment because I think a lot of Democratic candidates - including, certainly, the ones who've run for office there in Chicago - would argue that they have dedicated a lot of federal, state and city money to the interests of African-Americans in the South Side?

BROOKS: They're going to say they pumped in a lot of money to the South Side of Chicago. And I'm going to say, you pumped in a lot of money, but show us some jobs. We need economic empowerment, and we need to have tax incentives and tax breaks for corporations that decide to come to places like the South Side of Chicago and hire individuals on the South Side of Chicago. And we need to have those areas built up. And the only way we're going to be - get them built up, is that we have to create a way for an economic base to be put in place.

SIMON: Rand Paul came to visit your congregation earlier this month, didn't he?

BROOKS: Yes, sir.

SIMON: And how'd that go?

BROOKS: Well, Rand Paul did a great job. We had a great turnout, and we're looking forward to other presidential candidates to follow.

SIMON: Anyone you can tell us about?

BROOKS: Well, this will be the first time I announced this, so I'm glad to announce it. Our next candidate up is Dr. Ben Carson. He's going to be with us on Father's Day, and it's going to be a town hall meeting setting. And it's going to be very interesting.

SIMON: Do you think members of your congregation are just kind of indulging you? Or is it - are their minds really a little bit more receptive than they might have been a few weeks or months ago?

BROOKS: I think - not just my congregation - but people in the city of Chicago are being more receptive. I was talking to a lady at Starbucks, and she was saying, Pastor, thank you, because all my life I've voted Democrat. And I've always thought that we should vote different ways and just never spoke out. And she was saying that she's going to have - start having that type of conversation with her family about voting differently. And this lady is tied to a Democratic political figure in the city of Chicago. So I think it's a matter of showing people the various views and then letting them decide for themselves.

SIMON: Pastor Corey Brooks of Chicago's New Beginnings Church. Thanks so much for being with us.

BROOKS: Thank you, I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.