Sharpton Heavily Courted by 2020 Democrats, Will Hold Off Endorsement for a Year

Rev. Al Sharpton (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
January 14, 2019

Al Sharpton is being heavily courted by Democrats seeking his endorsement as they pursue the 2020 presidential nomination, but he said he won't make a decision on who he'll support for at least a year.

The liberal civil rights activist and MSNBC host has met with a flurry of possible 2020 contenders in recent weeks, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), and he's planning to speak soon with former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D., Texas), the Atlantic reported.

Sharpton has become a mainstream figure in the Democratic Party, in sharp contrast to his early days as a fiery, jumpsuit-wearing racial antagonist, known for his invective against Jews and the police.

Gillibrand will speak at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration put on by the National Action Network, a non-profit organization founded by Sharpton, next Monday. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will join Sharpton in Washington for a NAN event that same day.

Sharpton said he is open to supporting Biden and Bloomberg, who have rankled some progressives due to their respective support for a 1990s crime bill blamed for high incarceration rates of African Americans and the "stop-and-frisk" policy in New York City.

"I don’t think we’re looking for someone without flaws. I’m looking for someone who can work on an agenda going forward," Sharpton told the Atlantic, indicating he wants to see how candidates handle questions of voter rights, police use of force, and other civil rights issues:

But Sharpton isn’t making an endorsement any time soon, planning to hold off for at least a year. While candidates try to sort out how to talk about the economy, the president, foreign policy and the future of the country, he says he is focused on seeing specifics on their plans for how to expand voting rights and civil rights protections and deal substantively with police brutality.

A fixture of New York City, he and Bloomberg have maintained a relationship since he was first elected mayor in 2001. Sharpton also has ties to Biden through being a strong supporter of President Barack Obama, serving as a de facto spokesman on MSNBC show "PoliticsNation" when Obama was in office.

Sharpton has hosted a number of either confirmed or potential 2020 candidates in recent weeks: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.).

"I’ve been in this too long to be swayed by charisma, I want to hear policy," Sharpton said. "I’m hearing some good things, some incomplete."