Sharpton’s move: ‘It’s a distraction to start arguing about Cuomo’

Cuomo and Sharpton. (Savulich via www.nydailynews.com)
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Al Sharpton may be concerned about the prospect of black and Latino Democrats getting shut out of power in the State Senate by a nearly all-white coalition that has acted with the approval of the governor.

But "sources" not specifically identified as Cuomo or his aides tell New York Post state editor Fred Dicker, as evidence that there isn't really an issue between the governor and the black and Latino caucus, that Sharpton is "playing the most delicate and calculating role" by speaking out on the issue without publicly or privately pressuring Cuomo to act.

That comports with what I saw this Saturday at a rally at Sharpton's National Action Network in Harlem, where Democratic state senators issued explicit criticisms of Cuomo for not doing more to help them.

At the event, I asked Sharpton whether he was also disappointed that Cuomo hadn't done more.

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"I'm going to deal with the governor, but not today," Sharpton said. "This ain't a Cuomo story. This is a policy story."

I spoke to Sharpton today by phone, to ask about his reported calculation to speak out on the diversity issue without involving the governor, and he said, "It's a distraction to start arguing about Cuomo."

"My position is that I'm concerned about policy, not politics," he said. "I'm not the Democratic Boss Hog. If these guys made a coalition deal, then [my concern is] what happens to the priorities the people voted for, minimum wage, stop-and-frisk" and union protections, he said.

Sharpton's language, in fact, closely echoed Cuomo's, who said on Dicker's radio show this morning that his "job is to pass progressive legislation and effective legislation that makes a difference for the people of the state."

Cuomo may be particularly sensitive to any new suggestion that he is indifferent to the issue of racial diversity in state leadership. He headed an all-white Democratic ticket in 2010 in what was his second campaign for governor; in his first campaign, back in 2002, he mounted what turned out to be a highly divisive primary against New York's first-ever African-American major-party gubernatorial nominee.

Sharpton actually suggested that criticizing Cuomo for supporting the coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats in the Senate would be doing that very same coalition a favor by drawing attention away from its performance.

"What they want, the Klein-et-al group, they want me to beat up on Cuomo," Sharpton said. "Our job is not to shake down the governor."

Sharpton said that his critique isn't about Democrats aligning with Republicans.

"That's up to party people," he said. "The problem with that, Azi, is if I start doing that then I start talking like a party hack and not as a civil rights leader."

"Sure, I read Dicker's column," Sharpton continued. "I don't enforce party rules. If Skelos and them say are going to fast-track minimum wage, stop-frisk [and other progressive bills] then I'm fine with that."