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A group of African-American pastors is endorsing City Councilor Michael Flaherty for mayor Monday morning, in part to counter a smaller group that endorsed incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino last week. The endorsements highlight a break among African-American ministers in the city.
The 44 ministers, pastors and bishops are endorsing Flaherty as individuals or as pastors, along with members of the Latino, Haitian and Vietnamese communities. Members of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement are also backing Flaherty at Monday's event — after voting "no confidence" in Menino because of a lack of diversity in the upper ranks of the Boston Police Department.
Rev. Bruce Wall is among the ministers endorsing Flaherty. He said the ministers could have been highly influential in this year's election if they had issued a group endorsement. But when a group of 20 publicly endorsed Menino last week, Wall said they left hundreds of other pastors out of the decision and sold out to the mayor.
"When the mayor whistled and the black pastors went downtown and heeled to the left and got their biscuit, it bothered me. That image bothers me," Wall said. "That's only 20 pastors. We have hundreds of black churches in this town."
Wall said the mayor steered favors to those pastors who are with him — from clergy-only parking spots outside of churches to contracts and summer jobs.
But Rev. Eugene Rivers said he endorsed Menino because it was the pragmatic choice.
"As far as I can tell, based on the facts, the mayor has done as well as any mayor is going to do in his role as the head of state of this municipality," Rivers said.
It is unclear how the endorsements will affect poll numbers. The most recent poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows Flaherty trailing Menino by 20 percent, though the Flaherty campaign says its polling shows a gap of only about seven percent.
Flaherty's campaign is hoping to cut into Menino's strong showing in the inner city, especially Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.
Click the "Listen Now" button above to hear Radio Boston's David Boeri and Bob Oakes discuss the endorsements.
Listen to more in-depth coverage about the divisions within the African-American churches in Boston and their role in the mayoral race on Radio Boston's web site.
This program aired on October 19, 2009.
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