Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani last week stood behind his endorsement of a Cincinnati Republican mayoral candidate who once wrote that “only born-again believers” should be elected to public office.
Giuliani endorsed the candidate, Charles Winburn, during a September 7 visit to the southern Ohio city. A picture of Giuliani was displayed prominently on Winburn’s Web site. Winburn, an African-American former pastor, was running on a law-and-order platform asking for an expansion of the county jail. He came in third in the September 13 open primary, ending his bid.
In a 1989 book, “Ruling and Reigning in the ’90s,” Winburn wrote: “We Christians must clean up politics. It is our job to elect only born-again believers to public office. If office holders aren’t Christian and refuse to obey the laws of God, we must work hard, under the law, to unseat them.”
Winburn also wrote that “it is God’s will for the Church, through the Kingdom, to influence and run the county and city school systems in America” and that church members “must forgive those persons or groups of people — white, black, Jewish or whatever — who have oppressed or discriminated against us.”
“Don’t be deceived by this issue of ‘separation of church and state,’” he wrote in the book. “Why do you think Satan wants to keep Christians out of the media, education, politics, government and economics? So he can control their destiny.”
In an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Winburn explained that he would express his thoughts differently if he were writing his book today, and that the statement was meant as a “call to action for Christians to get involved in politics.” He attributed the resurfacing of the quote to an attack by his political enemies, and said that he had supported candidates of various faiths over the past dozen years. A spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Republican Party, Maggie Nafziger, underscored that Winburn “invites everyone to participate in his administration, regardless of religion.”
Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel told the Forward last Friday that the former mayor stood by his endorsement. “The mayor is very comfortable with Mr. Winburn’s explanations,” Mindel said.
“I’m really impressed with Mr. Winburn,” Giuliani was quoted by The Cincinnati Enquirer as saying during his visit. “We spoke about his crime plan. I read it over. I think he has a very good approach to how you make a city safer, and how you use that as a basis for economic development. It reminds me of the plans I had when I ran for mayor in ’92 and ’93.”
Democrats said that the endorsement appeared to reflect naiveté on Giuliani’s part.
“I would hope [Giuliani] didn’t know about this,” said the chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, Timothy Burke. “I would ask him before he gets involved in Cincinnati politics that he understands what he is getting involved in.”
Julius Kassar, a Jewish Cincinnati-area GOP activist, criticized Winburn’s 1989 statements: “If a guy believes you have to be a Christian conservative to hold political office, the guy’s nuts.”
Political observers said that Giuliani was trying to curry favor with conservative voters in advance of an expected 2008 presidential bid.
“He’s trying to position himself as a social conservative around the country, to earn credentials to offset his history of being pro-abortion pro-immigration and pro-gay marriage,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant. He added, “People in New York who supported him would not be happy.”