Al Sharpton Endorses John Kerry But Continues Own Campaign

Reverend remains in the race 'to promote issues of concern to minority voters.'

The Reverend Al Sharpton announced on Monday that he will endorse Massachusetts Senator John Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination following a brief meeting with Kerry in Washington, D.C.

However, Sharpton isn't pulling out of the race. Although he has ceased campaigning actively, Sharpton says he will remain in the race in an effort to gather delegates "to promote issues of concern to minority voters" at the Democratic National Convention in July.

"Now that we have resolved who our nominee will be, we can move on to developing in detail what the Democratic platform will be," Sharpton said in a statement. "I am pleased that Senator Kerry has agreed to work with me in an effort to implement a comprehensive urban agenda in his bid for the White House."

"Al Sharpton and I agree on the need for a real urban agenda that brings change and progress to America's cities," Kerry said in a prepared statement. "It is time to lead America in a new direction and give those who have been ignored for too long a government that hears their voices and addresses their concerns."

According to Sharpton's release, Kerry agreed to "a series of meetings [with Sharpton] to develop and promote ... a platform that embraces affirmative action and cracks down on police brutality, improves schools in minority districts, increases minority access to health care and bolsters programs to create jobs for minorities."

Traditionally, the party finalizes its platform at the national convention, so any delegates a candidate is able to send have the potential to influence that platform.

Former front-runner Howard Dean employed a similar tack after he dropped out of the race, asking supporters to continue their efforts so that any delegates he might win could further his progressive agenda at the convention. Dean scored a post-exit primary victory in his home state of Vermont.

Sharpton's decision reflects his earlier vow to remain in the race to promote his urban agenda, despite consistently poor showings in the primaries and caucuses. He may have new avenues to promote that agenda: According to a recent report in The New York Times, Sharpton has retained the William Morris Agency to pursue opportunities as a cable news and radio show host, as well as a possible reality show with FOX.

Sharpton and Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich have both finished poorly in a majority of the state races, but neither had thrown his support to Kerry until now, even in the wake of endorsements from higher-profile candidates Dean and North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Sharpton's move is the most recent sign that even those once vocally opposed to Kerry are consolidating around him in preparation for the campaign against President Bush.

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