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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.