Attorney General Andrew Cuomo—who's widely believed to be ramping up to challenge Gov. Paterson in a September primary—has been seen all over town shaking the hands of black civic leaders and clergymen. Taking on New York's first black governor, Cuomo is building a defense against critics who'll say he's derailing the career of a prominent African American politician.

After being accused of putting the city at risk for "racial polarization" by Albany Rep. Charles Rangel, Cuomo certainly gets points for effort. Cuomo was seen chatting with his old friend Mayor Byron W. Brown of Buffalo, who may be a possible candidate for lieutenant governor. He also met with Senate leader John L. Sampson and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, both Brooklyn Democrats and hired Juanita Scarlett, an experienced black political aid.

This month he also met with Rev. Floyd H. Flake, an influential black pastor in Queens. “He’d be a great governor,” Flake, a former congressman, said of Cuomo. “I’m not locked into the incumbent,” he said, but added that if 'he’s out there, I will probably be with him.” Nearly everyone he met with said they wouldn't consider race when deciding who to endorse, reported the NY Times.

Rangel warned Cuomo that "Since we have most African-Americans registered as Democrats, and since you would be making an appeal for Democrats, [a primary would] be devastating in my opinion." In 2002, race helped sink Cuomo's bid for gubernatorial office; he was vying against another prominent black politician, Carl McCall for the Democratic nomination, and ultimately lost out.