Ed Koch Still Wants To Matter

Ex-New York Mayor Plans To Enter '12 Fray for Obama

Still Packing a Punch? Former New York Mayor Ed Koch still carries cachet with Jewish voters. Will he be Barack Obama’s secret weapon in Florida this fall, or a double-edged sword?
getty images
Still Packing a Punch? Former New York Mayor Ed Koch still carries cachet with Jewish voters. Will he be Barack Obama’s secret weapon in Florida this fall, or a double-edged sword?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 11, 2012, issue of July 20, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

It was primary night, and Ed Koch was eating mussels.

The 87-year-old former mayor had a corner table at an Italian restaurant on the West Side of Manhattan. At his elbow was John LoCicero, his political advisor since the 1960s. LoCicero was eating mussels, too.

Primary polls were still open for another hour, but LoCicero, Koch and the three other longtime Koch allies out for dinner on June 26 were already talking about the general election — and the deciding role they predicted for the mayor in President Obama’s re-election campaign.

“Ed will get him Florida,” LoCicero said.

Koch, who hasn’t held public office since 1989, reasserted himself as the go-to arbiter of a candidate’s pro-Israel bona fides last fall. His cross-party endorsement was widely credited with helping Republican Bob Turner win a surprise victory in a special congressional election in a heavily Jewish New York district.

But Koch isn’t satisfied helping win a few races in New York’s outer boroughs. This year, the mayor plans to fly south to win Florida’s Jews, and maybe Florida itself (and perhaps, if the electoral math turns out right, a second term) for President Obama.

Obama may see in Koch a surefire backstop against Republican claims that he is insufficiently pro-Israel. But Koch isn’t great at staying on message. When barnstorming Florida for Jimmy Carter in 1980, Koch said the then-president “should rot in hell” if he broke commitments he’d made on Middle East policy. In an election with no margin for error, the mayor could be a liability.

“He’s got a proven record of lighting off Roman candles and carrying dynamite wherever he goes,” said one Florida Democratic political consultant, who asked not to be named. “That’s kind of what makes him interesting.”

Ed Koch is the only living person with a New York City bridge named after him. A polarizing mayor who came to power backed by a coalition of middle-class white voters, Koch was at the center of the tensions between black and Jewish communities that peaked in the early 1990s. Decades later, however, the rough edges of Koch’s legacy have been smoothed over. He’s the city’s eccentric grandfather, wryly aware of his own nostalgic cachet.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.