WASHINGTON— The Rev. Walter “Slim” Coleman, who compared conservatives and Republicans to Ku Klux Klan members at a campaign event for Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday, is a staffer for Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has been working with GOP lawmakers to pressure GOP House leaders to call votes on immigration reform measures.
On Friday, Gutierrez, a national leader on immigration reform whose calling card is a willingness to compromise with House Republicans, told me that he will take action against Coleman in the wake of his comments, delivered at a clergy event to endorse Quinn in Chicago.
“Rev. Coleman‘s characterization of Republicans in this instance is outrageous, very hurtful and just plain wrong,” Gutierrez said.
“I work with dozens and dozens of Republicans from Illinois and elsewhere and they are patriotic — not evil — even when we disagree on policy and politics. Nobody is working harder and more closely with Republicans than I am to try and craft an immigration reform solution, so obviously I do not agree with what the Reverend said.
“While the comments he made were made on his own time, I will be evaluating the situation to determine what disciplinary action is required,” Gutierrez told me.
Coleman is well known for his left-of-center progressive activism and community organizing and aggressive agitating going back years before he became a minister.
Less known is that Coleman has worked part-time for Gutierrez in the North Side lawmakers’ Chicago congressional district office since 2004. Coleman’s portfolio is wide-ranging and includes casework and outreach to the immigrant, Latino and religious communities.
Quinn, facing a battle with GOP governor nominee Bruce Rauner, did not react to Coleman’s comments at the “Clergy for Quinn” event on Thursday.
“That’s an unlikely voter that began way back in 1961 and ’62 with the Ku Klux Klan, that grew up through the militias, that came out of the militias and, and, and – came in to call themselves conservatives, and then came in to call themselves Republican,” Coleman said.
“That’s a movement that brings an evil that we have got to stop,” Coleman said. “Our fight – our fight is not – our fight is not with flesh and blood. Our fight is with powers and principalities. And there’s an evil – there’s an evil that a candidate may seem that he’s harmless is going to raise up in this state and we’re not going to let it happen.”
Quinn spokesman Brooke Anderson told me Friday the campaign did not invite Coleman; the ministers for Quinn organized the event, she said.
As for Coleman’s comments, Anderson said, “We couldn’t disagree more strongly. Governor Quinn believes this rhetoric has no place in politics.”
The new Illinois Republican Party Chairman, Cook County Board Member Tim Schneider, pounced on Coleman’s comments and scorched Quinn for not speaking out at the time.
“It is unacceptable and outrageous for a sitting governor to stand by silently and condone comparisons to the Ku Klux Klan. Governor Quinn owes the people of Illinois an explanation for why he stood by and said nothing,” Schneider said.
According to congressional staff salary records in Legislate, Coleman earned $11,500 in 2004 with gradual increases through the years. In 2013, the last full year, Coleman was paid $26,999.96 for his part-time work; $26,099.97 in 2012 and $25,499.95 in 2011.