Bishop Larry Trotter, the senior pastor of Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago, said Sunday he’s backing Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis for U.S. Senate, changing allegiance from longtime incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Trotter leads the 8,000-member South Shore church, a frequent stop for political candidates campaigning in Chicago’s African-American community.
He said he’s switching his support from Durbin to Oberweis after seeing meager economic development in African-American neighborhoods; a lack of a south suburban trauma center and a perceived “lack of access” to Durbin.
“When you pastor 8,000 people, I think you ought to get a return phone call,” Trotter said at a news conference in his church office Sunday afternoon.
RELATED: EXCLUSIVE POLL: Oberweis gaining on Durbin in U.S. Senate race
He said he has spoken with Durbin only once despite “many attempts” to express his concerns to the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate.
At the end of his Sunday sermon, Trotter put his arm around Oberweis and introduced him to several hundred applauding churchgoers.
“Bishop, you’re standing with a white man and a Republican,” Trotter said, anticipating what members of his congregation might say.
“Yes. He’s a good man,” Trotter said.
Trotter said he and other African-American church leaders have begun to rethink supporting only Democratic candidates.
Trotter joins Pastor Corey Brooks Sr., of New Beginnings Church of Chicago, in endorsing Oberweis.
“This is a new relationship with the African-American community,” Oberweis said.
Durbin spokesman Ron Holmes told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s quite baffling that any leader in the black community would choose to endorse such an extreme Tea Party candidate.”
“At the same time, we should note that everyone has their choice this election,” he added.
A new Early & Often poll Sunday showed Durbin just seven points ahead of Oberweis, leading 47.8 percent to 40.5 percent.
Contributing: Natasha Korecki