Burris says he’s working hard to represent Ill.
By Rupa Shenoy
CHICAGO — A somber U.S. Sen. Roland Burris told hundreds of supporters at a black church in Chicago on Sunday that he’s been working hard to represent them in Washington, D.C.
In a brief speech before a cheering crowd at New Covenant Baptist Church, Burris didn’t mention the increasing calls for his resignation from officials in Washington and Illinois — including from fellow Democrats.
Instead, Burris pointed to his accomplishments, including voting for President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill. He said he’s given three speeches on the Senate floor, and he proposed a bill to recognize the slaves who helped build the Capitol.
"I will never let you down," Burris said. "I will serve you with honesty and integrity. That’s all I know."
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is among the Democrats asking Burris to resign, a call he reiterated earlier Sunday, saying Burris should search for other ways to help the people of Illinois. Quinn favors holding a special election for the Senate eat.
Burris is under scrutiny because of the circumstances of his Senate appointment by disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and for changing his story about it multiple times.
Burris replaced President Barack Obama in the Senate and is the country’s only black senator.
Before addressing the congregation Sunday, Burris met with the Rev. Stephen Thurston, pastor of New Covenant, and other African-American ministers.
The ministers later spoke with reporters and said the criticism of Burris should stop.
"We believe he is the right man in the right place, and he is doing an exceptional job," Thurston said.
The calls for Burris to resign have taken a disrespectful, ugly turn, with people attacking the senator’s family and seeking to "destroy his public life," Thurston said.
The pastors warned that public officials who have said Burris should step down shouldn’t expect their support in the next election.
"We are not playing — this seat is too important," the Rev. Janette Wilson said. "We are not going to let you force our senator to resign."
Appearing with the ministers, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said that people calling for Burris’ ouster have "a horse in the race" to replace him as senator. And he questioned Quinn’s priorities in repeatedly calling for Burris to resign, saying the governor should concentrate on getting the state in order.
And Rush said Burris did not lie about the circumstances surrounding his appointment.
"My friends don’t perjure themselves," Rush said.
Dolores Chesnut, 69, a retired Cook County medical administrator, visited New Covenant Sunday to hear Burris speak. She said he had been "greatly wronged" by reporters engaging in a "media frenzy."
"People are holding him to a double standard, but he has a lot of community support," Chesnut said. "I am very supportive of Roland Burris."