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The fact that 10 prominent African-American ministers endorsed Gov. George Pataki just before Election Day may signal a welcome sea change in the way the game of politics is played in the minority community.

Democrats can no longer depend on the support of African-Americans without producing the results to justify it. These ministers have essentially thrown down the gauntlet and demanded respect, not just from the Democratic Party, which some argue had become complacent when it came to the African-American vote, but from the Republican Party. The message from the 10 ministers is clear: The African-American vote is not guaranteed. It must be earned.

Good for the ministers, who are now faced with criticism within their own community. When congregants cry out that an injustice has been done to the Democratic Party, they need to ask themselves what this party has done for them lately.

The Pataki administration has committed $1 million to St. John Baptist Church, one of the city's largest congregations. The money is being committed to the church's new Family Life Center, which oversees child care, health care, after-school and other community programs. And that's not to mention other East Side churches: Durham Memorial AME Zion Church, $984,000 for its child care facility; and Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ, $198,000 for its child care programs.

Add to that a list of Republican support for African-Americans in top appointments: Michael A. Battle as U.S. attorney, Kevin M. Carter for Erie County Family Court and John A. Johnson as commissioner of the state Office of Children and Family Services.

Some would argue that these black ministers have been influenced by gifts of money and political influence. Well, so what? That's how the game is played.

At the end of the day, African-Americans should not judge the governor only on how much money he spreads around for individual projects. Policies that bring jobs and hope to a struggling community ought to be the benchmark for the governor and his party.

What the ministers said to the GOP is that if its candidates do that, they will be rewarded. That's how it should be.

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