Martin Luther King Day was a chance to turn up the heat on New York’s Senate race — and it gave Rev. Al Sharpton an opportunity to play a role he relishes: kingmaker.


This summer, Sharpton endorsed Sen. Kristin Gillibrand for the job. But lately, he’s been squiring the dapper Harold Ford, who’s expressed interest in her job, all over town. He invited the former Tennessee congressman to Haiti with him.


“Sharpton loves the limelight and he’s in it again,” said political consultant Doug Muzzio. “Al wants to be a player, and he’s become a player.”


Sharpton gave a hearty introduction to Ford at his National Action Network MLK rally in Harlem yesterday and later introduced Gillibrand, who’s well ahead of Ford in polls, but the reverend didn’t stick around. He and Ford dashed out a side door while she was still on stage, headed to another event at a Baptist church in Mt. Vernon. Later yesterday, Ford knocked Gillibrand as “weak.”

Showing up with Sharpton on MLK Day is de facto for local politics; the next few weeks will bear how often Ford appears with the controversial Sharpton.

“Is this a longer-term romance or a one-day stand?” said Muzzio. “I think Sharpton would like this to be a longer-term relationship.”