After recognizing generations of politicians seated in his pews on Sunday, Southern Saint Paul Church Pastor Xavier L. Thompson turned to his congregation with a justification for blending politics with the pulpit.
“I suspended the rules. I suspended the rules today,” Thompson explained, motioning to Democrat Kamala Harris, the U.S. Senate candidate and state attorney general, who was on her third stop of a swing through African American churches.
The houses of worship have become a rite of passage for candidates campaigning for Los Angeles mayor, as well as state and federal offices. Dropping into the West Angeles Church Of God In Christ, Harris bumped into former President Bill Clinton, there on behalf of Hillary Clinton, and the two greeted each other (A spokesman confirmed they did not discuss California’s U.S. Senate race, or Harris.)
Thompson, who hosted Clinton on Saturday, said he made the exceptions because of the stakes of Tuesday’s primary election and the candidates running. Harris’ campaign bus arrived with several current and former officeholders, including Diane Watson, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Karen Bass.
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“The truth of the matter is I believe in this group today,” Thompson said from the pulpit. “These are not just politicians, but these are public servants who are friends to the body of Christ, who are friends to your pastor, who are friends to this church.”
The Reverend J. Edgar Boyd, pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church, demonstrated less hesitation about wading in to next week’s races. Boyd told the large congregation he’s personally supporting Clinton and Harris, who he mentioned would be the state’s first African American U.S. senator, drawing sustained applause.
“If you have an absentee ballot, fill it out and put it in the mail tonight. If you don’t fill it out and put in the mail tonight, take it to a polling place on Tuesday,” Boyd instructed. “If you are going to vote the traditional way, get to the polling place by 7 o’clock in the morning and 8 o’clock in the evening.
“Make sure you register your right to vote,” he added. “Too many lives and too much blood has been spilled and given for us to sit home and not exercise that right.”
Harris addressed the crowd at most of the churches, including Holman United Methodist Church and Agape International Spiritual Center, a day after meeting with pastors in Long Beach.
Citing Biblical verses, she said the book implores people to speak up, judge fairly, work for the needy and have the “courage of compassion.” “We know our voice is our vote and our vote is our voice,” she said.
Slipping out of First AME, Harris thanked Boyd and his wife, reminding a friend that the pastor helped during her campaign for district attorney, then for attorney general. The Senate race pits her against Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who was also campaigning in Los Angeles this weekend, and a number of Republican candidates.
Boyd was already looking beyond Tuesday, and November, telling Harris, “We’ll need somebody to replace Hillary Clinton in eight years.”