As you should now be aware, today is primary election day in New York City. The polls close at 9:00 P.M. tonight, so if you haven’t already, check the location of your polling place and go out and vote.
As many of the primary races around the city feature people who have worked in their communities over the years but are not well-known by the general public, the results of the elections held today will be in many cases determined by the success or failure of legions of campaign volunteers who have been out knocking on doors, stuffing envelopes, and making calls. Today we thought we’d take a look back at one of the Village’s most well-known politicians who passed away earlier this year – Ed Koch. In The Villager, Carol Greitzer (former Democratic District Leader, City Council Member from 1969 to 1991, and GVSHP Advisor, among many other things) provides a portrait of Koch before he was the larger-than-life mayor of the city and was just a lowly Democratic party volunteer, who like thousands of others was trying to make Adlai Stevenson’s case for election in 1956. Here’s just some what she described:
“While Ed was great as a stump speaker, on his return [to the Village Independent Democrats’ office, he was somewhat diffident (would anyone believe it if I described him as almost shy?) possibly because he was regarded with suspicion by some. Gradually, he became an active, accepted member of the club…but only one of several lawyers — and others — who articulated issues and debated endlessly at weekly meetings.”
She also notes that in 1962, “Ed decided to run for the Assembly against popular Assemblyman Bill Passannante. Bill was a Tamawa [the local Tammany club] member but he had a liberal voting record. By his own acknowledgement later, Ed was a terrible candidate, despite having an interesting, substantive, S.A.D. campaign — to change the laws on sodomy, abortion and divorce. It turned out that the Ed Koch who could speak effectively on behalf of others, was as yet unable to do so for himself. But he learned.”
And when he campaigned along with Greitzer for district leader in 1963, “Ed campaigned with amazing energy and enthusiasm. In those days you could get into buildings pretty easily, except for some with doormen. In elevator buildings you’d ride to the top and work your way down, ringing Democrats’ doorbells as you went. In walk-ups, you’d go up, one floor at a time. Most folks opened their doors back then, particularly if a female voice responded when they asked, “Who’s there?” There were many amusing incidents. I recall one person who opened the door stark naked and said, “Oh. I thought you were someone else.” When we’d get back to the clubhouse every night after canvassing, we’d both give reports as to how the evening went. My reports were very straightforward, but Ed would embellish his. He didn’t exactly lie, but somehow, raconteur style, he’d work in a few side remarks that upgraded his reports to the level of entertainment. And that was undoubtedly the start of the Ed Koch persona other New Yorkers came to know and, mostly, love.”