CEDAR RAPIDS — Chicago businessman Willie Wilson, who announced this week he’ll run for the Democratic presidential nomination, began courting voters Wednesday night at a Cedar Rapids church.
Scores turned out to a stop at the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where Wilson introduced himself and highlighted his Baptist beliefs.
He becomes the second African-American to announce a run for the White House in 2016. Republican Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, announced last month.
“I want to earn your vote,” Wilson said, telling the crowd not to vote for him just because he is black.
Wilson was interrupted several times with applause from the filled room, particularly when he said he would support whichever side he thought was right on a particular issue.
“The Constitution doesn’t say ‘We the Democrats’ or ‘We the Republicans’ It says ‘We the people,’ ” he said.
Wilson said his agenda would focus on economic development, education, public safety and equal opportunity.
He said he supported free education and free health care, and said black-on-black crime is an issue that needs to be addressed. He opposed same-sex marriage.
Jannie Ash of Coralville said she would consider voting for him, particularly after he said he supported raising the minimum wage.
“His heart sounds right,” Ash said. “If what he’s saying he means, then he would be a wonderful president.”
Ash said while she has a lot of respect for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, she has not heard her say the things she heard from Wilson.
“I’m going to watch the race closely,” Ash said.
Dedric Doolin, president of the Cedar Rapids chapter of the NAACP and director of the Area Substance Abuse Council, said he appreciated Wilson’s commitment. But he said he would need to do a lot more learning about him.
Wilson is the millionaire founder of Omar Medical Supplies and Willie Wilson Productions, a television productions company.
Earlier this year, he came in third in the Chicago mayoral race ultimately won by Rahm Emanuel.