The 78-year-old politician cautioned Friday that should Attorney General Andrew Cuomo take on Gov. David Paterson in the gubernatorial primaries next year, the race could become polarized along racial lines, according to The New York Daily News.
A staunch friend of Paterson, Rangel blasted Cuomo on New York 1 last night for failing to unequivocally state that he would not be running for governor in 2010. Cuomo, who has been leading the governor in Democratic polls, has consistently said he plans to run for re-election, but couches his statement by noting next year is a long way away.
"You cannot support the governor, prepare for reelection and at the same time say that you're keeping your options open for a primary," Rangel said.
More importantly, Rangel said that a Cuomo run could create a rift among New York Democrats, which would make it difficult to unite behind the party's nominee in the election.
"There might be an inclination for racial polarization in a primary in the state of New York," Rangel said, according to the Daily News. "Since we have most African-Americans registered as Democrats, and since you would be making an appeal for Democrats, it would be devastating in my opinion."
Cuomo hasn't exactly incurred the well wishes of leading black Democrats in New York over the years. In 2002, he challenged Carl McCall – the first African-American elected comptroller of the state -- in his campaign to become New York's first black governor.
Cuomo bowed out of the race days before the primary and spent years working to restore his position within the party.
If some Democrats are right, however, there may not even be a party primary for the 2010 race. Saddled by sinking poll numbers, Paterson may just take the opportunity to walk away, according to the Daily News. That may give Cuomo the green light.
"The only way I think Andrew could run for governor is if David chooses not to run," Queens Assemblyman Mark Weprin, a Democrat, told the paper.
Last month, a Siena College poll showed Cuomo beating Paterson in the primary by more than 50 percent of the vote – 64 percent to 11 percent – in a race the Rev. Al Sharpton said in April was "never going to happen."