It’s the mosque that every politician has a stake in.
From Sarah Palin to Harry Reid, politicians nationwide have chimed in on the Islamic community center being built two blocks from Ground Zero.
“Political candidates are trying to use it for their own end,” said Democratic consultant Evan Stavisky. “It’s something bigger than it should be.”
On Tuesday, those opposed to building the mosque at 49-51 Park Place got a big boost from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, arguably the state’s most powerful politician. Silver said he wanted the developers to find a different location that wouldn’t “cause the same controversy.”
“People are spinning it in a negative, ugly way,” said Deanna Bitetti, associate director of Common Cause/NY, a good government group. “They are really stirring the pot.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg reaffirmed his stance during a Ramadan dinner Tuesday night, saying “we must have the courage of our convictions.”
Most state officials are now expected to weigh in on Park51, consultants said. Silver not only has 9/11 families to think about, but the rest of his Assembly members facing re-election, Stavisky said.
Candidates looking for traction in their campaigns have seized on the issue to try to excite voters, political consultants said. It’s become a political football akin to abortion, which often gets volleyed around during elections, said Democratic strategist Joseph Mercurio.
“It’s sort of crazy to be pumping this up,” Mercurio said. “Professionally, I think they are wrong.”
Still, strategists said the issue wouldn’t be the most important for politicians.
“The overriding concern when it comes to November [elections] will still be the economy,” Mercurio said.
It’s not just politicians who are weighing in, though.
After a meeting Tuesday with Gov. David Paterson, who also wants the mosque moved, Archbishop Timothy Dolan said New Yorkers’ sense of tolerance and unity “may be a bit at risk” because of the heated debate.