What Black Vote?

The City’s African American Electorate is No Longer Predictable

Like Sonny Carson, Rangel hopes black leaders forsake all other candidates and get behind Fernando Ferrer. "I'm suggesting that you're going to see a groundswell of support from black ministers, civic leaders, and businesspeople, coming together, raising money, and getting their people out for Ferrer," Rangel says. "In the vacuum of political activity, our churches are going to explode with enthusiasm for Ferrer: It is going to be contagious because there is nothing else out there."

Rangel, who had earlier said he might refrain from any endorsement in the primary because he was not excited by the race, says he got involved after constituents began demanding that he take a stand. "My community refused to allow me to say that this is an uninteresting race," he explains. "They said, 'Hey, uninteresting or not, we cannot get into the habit of not voting. We have to be involved and you're gonna have to get together with your political leaders.' And so I had to ask myself, 'Even though I am not as excited as I want to be, in the long run what would be good for the city of New York?' "

Rangel feared that the goal of a black and Latino coalition would be imperiled. "I really think my involvement has a lot to do with the fact that Freddie Ferrer did not build his campaign on bringing together a coalition of black leaders," he explains. "In other words, the coalition followed Freddie Ferrer. I have reached the inescapable conclusion that the African Americans' political involvement in the future of our city must include ties with Latinos. I thought about what had happened in Los Angeles. I thought about what's going to happen when these reapportionment lines are drawn for the City Council, Assembly, and Senate."

He says the black coalition that is supporting Ferrer has a tough job convincing blacks and Latinos that they would be better off working together. "I'm not saying that this group of blacks coming together for Freddie is going to eliminate that type of tension," he adds.

Rangel praises the coalition of Harlem leaders for helping black voters make up their minds. "Our district leaders, who were all over the lot, are excited now that we are together," he says. "They are more excited about where they are now than with where they were heading."

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