By Heather Grossmann
HARLEM —It was supposed to be a day where politics were put aside in favor of Dr. Martin Luther King's message of peace and acceptance, but it was politics that brought rivals Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford Jr. together at Rev. Al Sharpton's Harlem headquarters — and it did not end prettily.
"Get in the damn car," Sharpton said impatiently to Harold Ford Jr., as he left his own King celebration toting Ford behind him, leaving Gillibrand at the event.
Gillibrand and Harold Ford Jr. shared the stage at the event, but only exchanged a few words.
"I said hello and I wished her a happy King Day," Ford said, before rushing off with Sharpton.
Sharpton said that he has known Ford virtually since the day he was born, and the two are expected to travel to Haiti Tuesday on a relief mission.
Gillibrand tried to rebuff questions about a potential primary challenge from Ford, saying "today is not the day to talk about politics," but when she was asked to respond to Ford's criticism that she was a "weak candidate," she took the bait.
"Anybody who wants to run can run. If somebody wants to move from Tennessee and represent New York, they're welcome," Gillibrand said. "I'm going to run on my record and I'm going to show I have a strong record on fighting for women's rights, gay rights, environmental justice..."
Sharpton has already endorsed Gillibrand in the 2010 race, but his commitment to her has been questioned in recent days.
"The reverend and I have a great relationship," Gillibrand responded when asked if she was worried that she would lose Sharpton's support.
Gillibrand and Ford were not the only prominent political rivals in attendance at Sharpton's MLK festivities.
Gov. David Paterson took the stage only after Attorney General Andrew Cuomo — his rumored gubernatorial rival — was long gone.
Cuomo, who has not yet announced his candidacy, stuck to his message of the past fews months, saying, "There's going to be plenty of time for politics, don't be worried about that."
"Right now I'm serving as attorney general, right now, I'm running for reelection as attorney general," Cuomo said.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney also shared the stage with her 2010 challenger, Reshma Saujani, and Congressman Anthony Weiner sat next to City Councilman Charles Barron.