When Churches and Politics Mix

Originally published in the New York Times Sept. 9, 2013.

Over the course of the primary campaign in New York City, mayoral candidates have regularly appeared at campaign forums and met voters at subway stops. But few destinations have been more popular than churches.

Since April, the candidates have spoken at least 169 church services, according to public schedules collected by The New York Times. At many churches, multiple candidates vied for the votes of congregants, sometimes on the same day. This past Sunday, at least 20 churches were visited by candidates.

The candidates covered all five boroughs in their quest for votes of the faithful, but they concentrated on majority-black areas like central Brooklyn and Harlem. Seventy-five of the services included in the Times analysis were in Brooklyn, 40 were in Queens and 25 were in Manhattan, of which all but 2 were north of 110th Street.

Among the Democratic candidates, Comptroller John C. Liu spoke at the most church services — 51 since April. William C. Thompson Jr., a former comptroller and the only black candidate among the top contenders, has been having trouble shoring up the black vote, polls suggest, and has stopped in at 40 services.

Former Representative Anthony D. Weiner has attended 31 services; Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, has been at 29, and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, has gone to 11.

The Republican candidates have not made as many stops at churches. The only confirmed campaign appearance the Times analysis turned up was by George T. McDonald at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Sept. 1.

The Rev. Howard K. Williams, the pastor at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, limits the candidates to three minutes each. “If they cannot present their platform in less than three minutes, they’re not worthy of a vote,” he said.

Alison Leigh Cowan and Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.