Sharpton hosts de Blasio in Harlem, and declares a new ‘identity politics of policy’

Sharpton and the de Blasio family. (Azi Paybarah.)
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On Saturday morning, the Rev. Al Sharpton welcomed Bill de Blasio to his weekly rally in Harlem, and did his best to explain de Blasio's strong showing among black voters in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

"What the election showed the other night is that a lot of identity politics of 20 years ago, 30 years ago has now become the identity politics of policy," said Sharpton.

"Bill Thompson did very well in some white areas," he continued. "Bill de Blasio did well in some black areas. You can no longer take yesterday's map for today's politics."

According to exit polls, de Blasio tied Thompson, the only black candidate in the race, among black voters, with each receiving 42 percent support.

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Sharpton withheld his endorsement in the Democratic primary, which came as a blow to Thompson, the only black candidate in the race, who was counting on strong support from black voters.

Sharpton was reportedly unhappy that Thompson did not back two police oversight bills, which de Blasio made a focus of his campaign. The reverend also praised De Blasio for talking about income inequality and for his plan to tax high-earners to pay for early education programs, which Thompson opposed.

"We are responding to what you say," Sharpton said of black voters on Saturday morning.

Sharpton noted that de Blasio did well with female voters even though there was a female mayoral candidate in the race, referring to Christine Quinn, the City Council Speaker.

"And I think as we mature the values are different. Because nobody wants to be taken for granted," Sharpton said. "If you want me to turn out for you, you got to talk to me about my interests."

Sharpton's invitation to Harlem comes during a week when de Blasio has tried to demonstrate his strong support, in the face of a possible run-off challenge from Thompson.

The Daily News quoted a spokesperson for Sharpton, who said Thompson was not invited to the event, but after the rally, Sharpton said Thompson had been invited, but was reluctant to attend out of fear it would make the unresolved count the dominant theme of the gathering.

Thompson has made a voting-rights case for continuing his candidacy, insisting every vote must be counted, and Sharpton said he had spoken earlier that morning with Thompson and Hazel Dukes, head of the NAACP in New York and a key Thompson supporter.

"We all agree that we must protect and always stand for counting every vote," said Sharpton.

"We cannot let people use our civil rights stand for a wrong rights," he added. "Civil rights cannot be perverted politically into civil wrongs. So, at the same time that we stand for what is right, policy-wise, as political discussions go forward, they must protect our politics so civil rights is not manipulated into a civil wrong."

De Blasio attended the event with his wife, Chirlane McCray, and his daughter, Chiara. His son Dante, who starred in a much-discussed television ad, was home doing homework, said De Blasio.

Outside the rally, de Blasio was asked by a reporter about Joe Lhota who has tried to position himself as a change candidate in the days since he won the Republican nomination.

"Imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery," de Blasio said. 

De Blasio said his own candidicay is offering a "clear, progressive ... break from the Bloomberg years. Mr. Lhota, I think, more of the same. He's clearly in favor of continuing a lot of Bloomberg's approach."

One major difference de Blasio pointed out was his desire to tax the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten classes and after school programs.

He dismissed Lhota's argument that such a plan could be enacted by finding "efficiencies" in the city budget.

De Blasio said taxing the rich was "the only realistic way to make changes on the magnitude I'm talking about."

Asked about Thompson, de Blasio said the former comptroller has "every right" to seek "a full count" but he was confident his lead would hold.