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Crain's New York Business

Sharpton Ally Takes Charge : Ex-Bronx Democratic Chair Ramirez To Run Activist's Push For Presidency

Philip Lentz

October 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Crain Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Former Bronx Democratic Chairman Roberto Ramirez plans to run the presidential campaign of his political ally the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Mr. Ramirez, now a political consultant, has been named co-chairman of Mr. Sharpton's exploratory committee in charge of building a national campaign organization. Mr. Ramirez's new consulting firm, the MirRam Group, will also likely be hired by the Sharpton campaign.

The other co-chairman of Mr. Sharpton's exploratory effort is Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law school professor.

Messrs. Sharpton and Ramirez were allies in last year's mayoral campaign of Fernando Ferrer, which Mr. Ramirez ran, and both served in jail together in the summer of 2001 for their protests on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques .

Mr. Sharpton hopes to use a presidential campaign to galvanize minority voters for the Democratic Party and to serve as a counterweight to moderate Democrats who have moved the national party to the political middle-or, in Mr. Sharpton's view, to the political right.

"Clearly, this will be a battle for the soul and direction of the Democratic Party," Mr. Sharpton says. "We need to redefine the party as not a version of what the Republicans say. We have had a generation of elephants running around in donkey clothes."

Mr. Ramirez says Mr. Sharpton will "raise issues that, for lack of another word, mainstream candidates will not be able to address-corporate greed, electoral reform, Vieques , education, racial profiling and taxation."

Some Democrats fear that Mr. Sharpton, one of the party's most polarizing figures, could hurt the Democrats' chances in 2004 by pushing its eventual nominee too far to the left.

But Mr. Ramirez dismisses such concerns. "If we don't capture the Hispanic national constituency and if we don't energize African-Americans and if we don't go after hard-core Democrats, no Democrat can win," he says.

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