Black Preachers and Elections: What Gives?

8 Nov

A few weeks ago, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the influential pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, came to a difficult decision, one he had wrestled with all summer.

Daniel Barry for The New York Times

"What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are importan to me?" said Rev. Calvin O. Buts III, the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan.

He would not endorse William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller and a longtime friend and ally, for mayor, as he had promised Mr. Thompson last spring. Instead, he would endorse Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Mr. Thompson was furious at the betrayal. But what he did not know was that Mr. Bloomberg gave a $1 million donation to the church’s development corporation — roughly 10 percent of its annual budget — with the implicit promise of more to come.

“What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are important to me?” Mr. Butts said in an interview before he endorsed Mr. Bloomberg.

In his quest for a third term, Mr. Bloomberg has deprived Mr. Thompson of what many once regarded as his political birthright: the blessings of the city’s most powerful black ministers, who together preach to tens of thousands of congregants each week. And to win them over, he has deployed an unusual combination of city money, private philanthropy, political appointments and personal attention, creating a web of ties to black clergy members that is virtually unheard of for a white elected official in New York City.

Click to read.

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