Andrew Cuomo hasn't been an elected official for long, but he has learned the first rule of office-seekers looking to head off racial headaches in Gotham City: Call Al Sharpton.
Word is out that Cuomo -- the man most likely to take over the governor's mansion once David Paterson's term comes to a merciful end -- has met with Sharpton to explain away the lack of black and brown faces on the Democratic statewide ticket.
I covered Cuomo during the 1990s as a national urban affairs writer for the Associated Press when he served as housing secretary under President Clinton. And I learned that two words sum him up: smart and ambitious.Both traits come into play with Cuomo's open courting of Sharpton.
Cuomo knows that the absence of minority faces on the statewide Democratic ticket in New York could open the party to some much-deserved criticism -- especially since blacks and Latinos do the bull work of local organizing and are essential to any victory in November. It is, therefore, smart for Cuomo to head off the complaints.
Whispers from political observers reveal that, should Cuomo get his way, the New York governor's mansion will be far from the last stop on his political resume. Cuomo will need a strong political base to launch any national political aspirations, and being a friend of the powerful New York minority constituency is a good place from which to start.
To his credit, Sharpton has become a legitimate kingmaker in New York politics. Embarrassing episodes like the Tawana Brawley mess are now far in his rear-view mirror.
I'm always a little nervous when one person is anointed a "representative" of an entire people. Often, any gravy that flows from on high stops at the mouths of the so-called kingmaker, his family and a small circle of cronies.
But I sure don't see Cuomo beating down my door to represent black folks' interests in the New York political arena. Having Sharpton at the bargaining table, where influence and access to power will be doled out, is better than having no one there at all.