Paterson, Drawing the Line at Harlem

One of the most amazing things about David Paterson’s rally in Harlem this weekend was, as Nick Confessore noted, the

One of the most amazing things about David Paterson’s rally in Harlem this weekend was, as Nick Confessore noted, the fact that Paterson had to do it in the first place.

“So, I want to know who is out there that can cut the budget that effectively and remember those who need to be protected the most,” Paterson said ten-and-a-half minutes into his speech at the National Action Network office on 135th Street. “If there is such a person, let them come forward. I will see them in 2010.”

Paterson represented Harlem in the State Senate for many years, and the event was played as a homecoming. It was also also aimed at dispelling the idea that Paterson is actually at risk of losing the political loyalties of Greater Harlem, if not New York's black political establishment. It's a proposition for which this April 12 New York Times story, this April 7 Quinnipiac poll, and this piece from Jason Horowitz all provide evidence.

Al Sharpton told reporters that members of his group wanted Paterson “to feel emboldened, knowing his base support is absolutely there."

Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick told the crowd, “We, the people that look like him, are with him. And we will stand with him day and night, in and out. We will win this fight. And to the news media, we are together. Don’t get it twisted.”

In a brief interview afterward, Hardwick elaborated on this point.

“For the news media to have it out there that the African-American community is not with the governor—I’ve to come and stand up for my voice and the people’s voice that I represent,” he said.

“We all know and love our governor,” Assemblyman Darryl Towns of Brooklyn told the crowd. “And there’s a number of us in here, regardless of what he does, we’re going to be there.”

He added, “We have to elect Governor David Paterson.”

The biggest perceived threat to Paterson, whose re-election prospects are showing no particular signs of improvement, is Andrew Cuomo. As attorney general, Cuomo has led investigations of the student loan industry, health care companies and other elected officials and have won him praise far and wide. And who is assembling an impressive team of campaign consultants that would certainly be a bit much if it were actually intended for a mere re-election bid.

I asked Hardwick how important it was to hear Cuomo publicly voice his support for the governor's re-election.

“I think it’s essential to the Democratic Party from New York to show we’re united, we’re galvanized and we must stay together,” he said. “We need the attorney general. We need the governor. And we need New York to know that they are one.”

Representative Charlie Rangel was also in attendance, and he told reporters that “nobody can walk away saying that Dave is not loved, not only as a governor but as a member of our community.”

As for the greatest challenge to Paterson’s re-election, Rangel said it was not Cuomo.

“It’s the New York Post,” Rangel said.

After his speech in Harlem, I asked Paterson how important he thought it was for Cuomo to make a statement of support for him.

“I don’t think there’s a campaign right now. I don’t think that’s necessary at this moment, any more than anyone else,” he said. “What I think is more important is that we recognize that there has not been a fair or balanced presentation of what this administration has been able to accomplish.”

Paterson, Drawing the Line at Harlem