Al Sharpton, the New York activist who flashed quick wit and rhetorical jabs on the campaign trail but failed to spark a large following, has endorsed John Kerry for president but promises to continue his own urban agenda campaign.
The mixed message — endorsing a former rival but not exiting the stage — came after a face-to-face meeting with Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
“It would be misleading and futile to campaign for the nomination, but it continues for the platform and direction of the party,” Sharpton told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “My campaign continues now to pick up delegates so that we can go to the convention to coalesce with other delegates.”
Sharpton said he and Kerry plan to meet soon with black business leaders to discuss the Massachusetts senator’s appeal to urban and minority voters.
In welcoming the endorsement, Kerry praised Sharpton’s “ability to cut through the double-talk we see coming from this administration,” and pledged to work for Sharpton’s oft-stated goal of a new “urban agenda.”
Sharpton conceded he may not have much time for the campaign trail if he lands a job on television. He said a deal could be inked as early as this week.
“I don’t know how much time I will have. I plan to be on TV this summer,” he said.
Although his campaign failed to ignite, Sharpton’s performance in Democratic presidential debates did raise his profile. He recently retained the William Morris Agency to seek opportunities as host of his own cable or radio talk show.
Sharpton had been looking to the presidential race to help him supplant his mentor, Jesse Jackson, as the nation’s most influential black leader. But unlike Jackson, whose campaign made him an established figure within the Democratic Party, Sharpton’s campaign has been lackluster.
He garnered just 8 percent of the vote to finish third on his home turf of New York in the March 2 round of primaries. It was a major disappointment for Sharpton, who earned 25 percent of the vote when he ran for U.S. Senate in New York in 1994 and 32 percent in the Democratic mayoral primary in New York City in 1997.
His campaign also has been plagued by accounting problems. Federal election officials voted this month to give the campaign $100,000 in federal matching funds, but also decided to investigate whether Sharpton deserves the money.
The Federal Election Commission has been examining loans and out-of-pocket payments by Sharpton, in his role as an activist preacher, to Sharpton, the candidate. A campaign spokesman said Sharpton stands behind his fund raising.
Some of Sharpton’s strongest moments during the campaign came in debates when he challenged other Democrats on their more moderate positions — and tore into the Bush administration on issues like the Iraq war.
At a candidates’ debate in New York before the March 2 primaries, Sharpton got into a heated exchange with the moderators, saying he wasn’t getting enough speaking time and would not “sit here and be window dressing.”
In an earlier debate, he accused the administration of lying about the reasons for the Iraq war.
“Clearly, Bush lied. Now if he is an unconscious liar, and doesn’t realize when he’s lying, then we’re really in trouble,” Sharpton said. “I think we should give him the rest of his retirement to figure that out and explain to us.”