The fight over building more Walmarts in the city of Chicago has spilled over into the Illinois governor's race, with Republican Bill Brady joining with an influential black minister Wednesday to support the big box chain's expansion.
Brady and Democratic state Sen. James Meeks, who runs a South Side megachurch, were at a vacant development site the day before the Chicago City Council's zoning committee was scheduled to vote Thursday on whether the city's second Walmart could be built there.
"This is just a start, by allowing someone like a big box to come in here and provide the anchor, it could mean multiple factor of jobs," said Brady, a state senator from downstate Bloomington.
Plans to let Wal-Mart Stores Inc. expand inside the Chicago city limits have been on hold while the giant retailer and unions negotiate over wages that labor leaders have complained are too low.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who has courted union backing in the governor's race, said Tuesday he was encouraged by the negotiations that could bring more Walmarts to Chicago. The company has said it wants to build dozens of stores in the city.
"I'm encouraged by the fact that Wal-Mart understands that you have to pay a decent wage to workers, certainly above the minimum wage," he said.
Meeks said his appearance with Brady wasn't an endorsement of the Republican's bid for governor, but a sign of solidarity on the Walmart issue. Although the two disagree on issues like raising taxes, they agree that the retailer can bring much-needed jobs to struggling communities, Meeks said.
"If we're going to get things done in Springfield, if we're going to get things done in Washington, it's time to cross the aisle," Meeks said. "Every idea that Republicans have ain't bad and every idea that Democrats have ain't good."
Meeks said it's too soon to endorse anyone in the governor's race, which also includes the Green Party's Rich Whitney.
But Meeks didn't rule out the possibility of throwing his support to Brady.
"All things are possible, that's what the scriptures teach us," he said.
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