The Rev. Al Sharpton praised Gov. David Paterson today for putting the interests of New Yorkers ahead of his own political ambitions and urged the public not to forget the obstacles the state's first legally-blind, African-American governor has overcome.
"I might remind people he was one who inherited this governorship with no warning from his predecessor," Sharpton told reporters, including the DN's Celeste Katz, at a press conference at the Capital Grille following the governor's announcement that he won't run this fall.
"I think he has had an unusual and unprecedented barrage of innuendo and rumor and has withstood it as he’s withstood many things through his life," Sharpton continued. "His life story of overcoming odds is something exemplary and should not be forgotten at this hour."
Sharpton said he spoke with Paterson last night and again today before the 3 p.m. press conference. He still plans to host a summit of black and Latino elected officials tomorrow at Sylvia’s in hopes of avoiding "a lot of internal bickering and fighting and internal party fratricide that will lead to a Republican win.”
Sharpton said he spoke today with AG Andrew Cuomo, but declined to endorse the man state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs has already all but crowned as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
"I told (Cuomo) that I would hope in the near future that all of us can talk as we continue to move in that direction in terms of the legislation and other things in the state," Sharpton said.
"There will be a time, also to deal with politics. I think that now is the time to deal with making sure that people don’t suffer and that we don’t end up with a lot of posturing and political infighting."
Sharpton endorsed Paterson's hand-picked junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, via press release last summer - a move widely seen as an effort to bolster the governor, not the former congresswoman, which whom Sharpton didn't have much of a relationship at the time.
In recent weeks, however, Sharpton has been under pressure from his aides to distance himself from the embattled governor. One way he had started to do that was to make nice with Gillibrand's potential primary opponent, Harold Ford Jr.
Katz noted that Sharpton adviser Charlie King was standing at the back of the Capital Grille this afternoon. King, as you'll recall, was Cuomo's LG running mate in 2002, but then ran against him in the 2006 Democratic AG primary.
King ended up dropped out of the AG race shortly before primary day and endorsing Cuomo, under whom he once worked at HUD. In 2002, Cuomo dropped out of the gubernatorial primary shortly before the election and endorsed his primary rival, then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall.