Insight News

Feb 13th

But can Blacks get him bucks and the ballot?

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The question is no longer if Alfred Sharpton, Jr. will run for the Democratic nomination for President, but whether he can raise enough money to compete with a corps of better-funded candidates. The question is no longer if Alfred Sharpton, Jr. will run for the Democratic nomination for President, but whether he can raise enough money to compete with a corps of better-funded candidates.

Al Sharpton sees his competitors, as “people who get rich and go straight into the US Senate.”

“Clearly someone who’s spent over two decades working on public policy issues has more of a background to run for the White House than that,” says the Pentecostal minister.

But, many dismiss Sharpton as a “race hustler” with a candidacy designed to “shake-down” Democrats. As spokesman for “the little people,” Sharpton is counting on Black Americans viewing his run as the “shake-up” political parties need.

“There are people who say bringing up issues of race is divisive. I believe not bringing up issues about race is divisive,” states Sharpton. His Race Base will be extremely important in Democratic primaries. Sharpton says, “White voters are barely aware of most of the other Democrats. Kerry, Edwards, and the rest are all going to have to try and become well-known to a base vote," says Sharpton.

"I’m already well-known to my base vote. John Edwards will spend the next two years getting people outside of North Carolina to even know who he is.

“I wouldn't take nothing for my journey now,” is a refrain ministers like Sharpton sing in church. These days, the “journey” requires really passing the plate because the power of money decides who runs and who gets elected in America. Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 run cost $50 million.

Toward that end, Sharpton has named Don Coleman, CEO of GlobalHue, and Pierre Sutton of Inner City Broadcasting to head his money crew. In January 2003, Sharpton’s Exploratory Committee joined other 2004 Democrat presidential candidates: John Edwards, Joseph Lieberman, John Kerry, Richard Gephardt and Howard Dean to become eligible for federal matching funds. Candidates will need $15 million to $20 million to run competitive races. Senator Edwards already has $7 million for his run.

Sharpton’s appeal among African Americans garners “race-baiting” reactions from Whites. His reputation comes from numerous grass roots campaigns among lower- and middle-income Black New Yorkers. He was a youth director for Jesse Jackson’s Operation Breadbasket. He maintained a ministry and political activism while he was soul singer James Brown‚s touring manager during the 1970s. He became nationally known from a series of racial incidents in New York. In January 1991, after a drunken White man stabbed him in the chest, Sharpton refined his controversial image and formed the National Action Network (NAN) to work for economic justice and political empowerment. NAM projects gained a number of long-term advertising contracts that bolstered Black media outlets.

Sharpton says a six-man race can yield “major upsets in many primaries”. Qualifying on 20 state ballots will make Sharpton entitled to up to $16.75 million in federal matching funds. With such money Sharpton is a player. He can leverage his grass roots organizations, strength among Black media, and attractiveness among general media to reach core Democrats. Qualifying for matching funds also puts Sharpton in the Democratic debates. "Giving me matching-funds money is like me having Michael Bloomberg money," says Sharpton, referring to the New York City billionaire who spent $70 million of his own money to become mayor. "I’ve always had to do with shoestrings. Imagine if I had shoes."

Big money is needed to influence the nation’s government and issues - more than $2.5 billion is spent each year. This year, federal elected officials will receive $480 million from individual political donors (mainly conservative members of the financial elite) and another $82.5 million from

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