- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2000

The Rev. Al Sharpton charged yesterday that Hillary Rodham Clinton has not done all she can to secure New York's black vote in the U.S. Senate race, which could give Rep. Rick Lazio a much-needed boost among those voters.
In an interview yesterday with The Washington Times, Mr. Sharpton said black support for the first lady is less certain without the polarizing candidacy of New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
"I think Lazio has reached out to this community. He can get 15 to 20 percent of it, and she was running against a guy who would have gotten about 2 percent," Mr. Sharpton said.
Recent polls have shown Mr. Lazio with about 8 percent of the black vote four times the showing of Mr. Giuliani. The mayor had alienated blacks with his handling of several high-profile cases involving police relations with minorities.
Mr. Sharpton said that Mrs. Clinton needs to know that she can no longer count on opposition to Mr. Giuliani to motivate black voters.
"With him out, now it becomes a pro-Hillary strategy," Mr. Sharpton said. "I'm not sure that transition has been made. She has a small window here before people will say that she's taking the vote for granted and has not been able to come back with a post-Giuliani strategy."
An aide to Mrs. Clinton countered: "Hillary is not taking any votes for granted. She is going to continue doing what she's been doing traveling all over the state, meeting and talking with members of all communities in every county of New York."
Clinton pollster Mark Penn would not comment on Mr. Sharpton's comments, but "you can look at any recent polls and find that she's been very strong in the minority camps."
The controversial Mr. Sharpton, who leads the National Action Network, said Mrs. Clinton has not focused sufficiently on issues important to black voters. He cited the first lady's reluctance to call for the Justice Department to take control of the New York Police Department following a federal report suggesting such a seizure was warranted.
"Our demands for federal intervention were never heard," said Mr. Sharpton. "She should be addressing the Civil Rights Commission's report. These issues will diminish as the summer wears on. If she is perceived as ducking these, it will be harmful to her campaign."
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday approved a report that accuses New York City police of racial profiling, a charge that was denied by Mr. Giuliani. The mayor announced in May that he would not run for the U.S. Senate after being the speculative candidate for months.
Mrs. Clinton can expect to garner most of her share of the black vote from New York City, which is 28 percent black. But upstate continues to be her weak spot in the polls among voters of all races.
"We've got Republican black towns up there with black mayors," Mr. Sharpton continued. "The first lady will have to connect on the issues to get them."
The issues, he said, include economic opportunity in areas where unemployment has remained high despite a flourishing economy. Racial profiling and police brutality are other key spots that can be used to court the black vote, Mr. Sharpton said.
"She will have to find the issues that connect," the activist said. "She's basically been guarded; she just hasn't been as open as she could be. I would say right now that even though I disagree with Lazio on policies, the race is up for grabs."
If the first lady does not give black voters something to focus on, they could sit the election out, Mr. Sharpton said.
"And a non-vote is a vote for Lazio," he said.
Even a small slice of the state's black vote would be a victory for Mr. Lazio, since Republicans have traditionally done poorly among black voters.
In 1998, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat, was elected with the help of 86 percent of the state's black vote. The same year, Republican Gov. George E. Pataki received 16 percent of the black vote en route to a second term.
Democrats still expect the first lady to carry the state's estimated 1.2 million-strong black vote.
"Mrs. Clinton has the overwhelming majority support of that vote," said Peter Kaufmann, a spokesman for the New York State Democratic Party. "That support hasn't changed much since Rudolph Giuliani dropped out of the race."

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