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Tensions Flare At Sharpton Summit – NY Daily News Blog

By Elizabeth Benjamin

Black and Latino Democratic leaders publicly presented a united front today after “what to do post-Paterson” summit hosted today at Sylvia’s by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who released a statement declaring the group supports the governor’s decision to remain on the job.

“(T)he collective wants to put the focus back on policy not politics, including the areas of budget protection, job creation, education reform, health care, and entrepreneurial services,” Sharpton said, adding that the group would be seeking a meeting with both Paterson and “whoever announces that they will run for governor.”

However, during the meeting, which was closed to the press, there were several tense moments, according to multiple sources who were inside the room.

A number of participants were surprised when potential US Senate contender Harold Ford Jr. challenged Rep. Charlie Rangel over the health care reform legislation under consideration in Washington, DC.

The former Tennessee congressman has made an issue of the bill during his non-campaign against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, saying the proposed changes to Medicaid it includes would hurt New York.

Rangel brought up the topic of health care reform at Sylvia’s while participants at the meeting were talking about what Paterson’s policy agenda should be going forward. Sources said Ford “civilly and respectfully” questions the veteran Harlem pol over the wisdom of the legislation in its current form.

One person in the room said the moment was “tense” and a little surprising, given Ford’s relative newcomer status in New York politics. Both Democrats stood their ground, however, and no voices were raised.

(Gillibrand was not in attendance; she was invited but had a prior family commitment. She did speak to Sharpton by phone today).

Sources said there was a general consensus of support for Rangel, who was admonished last week by a House ethics panel for breaking congressional travel rules.

Rangel wasn’t the only pol under fire at Sylvia’s today.

Comptroller John Liu took some heat for calling for Paterson to resign in hopes of bringing some stability to the state budget negotiations. Councilman Charles Barron called out Liu, who was in the room.

Liu defended himself, saying he was merely trying to fulfill his role as the city’s chief fiscal watchdog. He did agree to sign on to the statement released by Sharpton that pointedly did not call for Paterson’s resignation.

Two other Democrats who suggested Paterson’s decision not to seek election but remain in office was insufficient were also singled out for criticism: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, whom Barron derided as a “Cuomo man” (de Blasio worked at HUD when Cuomo headed the agency), and Sen. Bill Perkins, who holds Paterson’s old Harlem seat.

Neither Perkins nor de Blasio attended today’s meeting.

Perkins bore the brunt of the angry words, sources said, with attendees saying that his words were an act of betrayal because he represents Paterson’s home district and succeeded him in to the Senate.

The senator didn’t call for Paterson’s resignation, but did say that if the governor knows AG Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into alleged interference in David Johnson’s domestic violence case won’t end well for him then he should perhaps “cut bait now.”

Interestingly, Cuomo’s name was rarely invoked this afternoon, sources said. The AG hasn’t yet announced his intention to run for governor, although he has been all but anointed as the party’s nominee by state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs.

Others who attended the Sylvia’s summit included (but were not limited to):

Former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Jose Serrano, Rep. Greg Meeks, Assemblyman/Manhattan Democratic Chairman Keith Wright, Assemblyman/Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie, Senate President Malcolm Smith, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, Assemblywoman Inez Barron, and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson was notably absent.

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