The New York Times has softened its earlier report that Rev. Al Sharpton and influential union chief Dennis Rivera had discussed a joint endorsement of Democratic frontrunner Fernando Ferrer.
The Times first reported deliberations between the two parties in a Sept. 2 article that said Sharpton and Rivera were “weighing” a joint endorsement before the primary election and were “set to discuss the issue” early this week. On Sept. 4, the newspaper of record cited “growing optimism” within the Ferrer camp that “more good news will come his way,” again noting “a possible joint endorsement this week by two potential kingmakers.”
But the Times backtracked Wednesday—saying Ferrer’s “hopes were high” for an endorsement from either Sharpton or Rivera (“or perhaps both”), but noting that union officials said an endorsement was “not imminent.”
If an endorsement is indeed not imminent, then when, one wonders, did these close deliberations the Times reported take place? As the Voice revealed last week, recent negotiations between Mayor Bloomberg’s labor commissioner and the 4,000 Health & Hospitals Corporation workers that 1199 represents “are a factor” in the union’s endorsement decision, according to Rivera aide Jennifer Cunningham. She also said the union was “very pleased” by Bloomberg’s earlier support of a “groundbreaking living wage” for the 50,000 home attendants 1199 represents.
Spokesman Chris Flemming confirmed Wednesday that the union was “still deliberating” on whether or not to endorse a candidate before the primary, and union associates told the Voice on more than one occasion last week that Rivera was not even in the city when the first Times article came out; he was in Puerto Rico. Associates also said they were unaware that any meetings had taken place and were surprised by the Times piece.
As for Sharpton, according to an associate quoted in Wednesday’s Times article, concern over whether the black community “is really ready to embrace Ferrer” may play a factor in a possible endorsement. In 2001, Sharpton endorsed Ferrer at the end of August, after months of indecisiveness. At that time, he and a coalition of black leaders who are now splitting their support between Ferrer and C. Virginia Fields, the only African-American candidate, brought momentum back into the race, and Rivera’s endorsement followed. Sharpton, who marched alongside Mayor Bloomberg earlier this month in the annual Dominican Day Parade, was in the Gulf Region observing hurricane relief efforts this week. He declined to comment by phone.