The two black leaders and sometime rivals offered effusive praise for the governor after he appeared in Harlem Monday to sign legislation forbidding prosecutors from trying 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in misdemeanor and most nonviolent felony cases. The new law marked the latest leftward lurch by the onetime centrist, who has also rolled out a host of infrastructure plans and instated a full scholarship program at public colleges for students from upper-middle-class to low-income backgrounds.
The governor has grown increasingly outspoken on national matters, and in his address yesterday assailed President Donald Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement policies—and touted the $10 million set aside in the new state budget to provide legal services for foreign nationals facing deportation.
“I don’t want to be the first one out there, but I can’t make it more clear: I cannot think of anyone at this time who is better qualified,” Rangel said in a brief interview following the governor’s speech. “He was sensational. I don’t want to set him up as a target, but there’s no one around him, I’ll tell you that.”
“I think that, given this president, he sounded more than presidential. I think he reminded us what presidential sounds like,” the civil rights activist told the Observer, though he held off on formally lending his endorsement. “I’d have to see who was in the race, but right now whoever’s in would have some catching up to do.”
But Sharpton and Rangel are at odds with the bulk of their fellow New Yorkers: polls have repeatedly found Cuomo’s constituents remain stubbornly resistant to the notion of him seeking the White House. The governor, for his own part, has insisted that he hopes only to secure a third term in his current office next November.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another rumored 2020 contender, declared during a television interview in February that Cuomo would make a “great candidate” for the presidency.