New York City mayoral election, 1977

New York City mayoral election, 1977
New York City mayoral election, 1977
New York City
1973 ←
November 8, 1977
→ 1981

  Ed Koch 1978.jpg Mario Cuomo speaking at a rally, June 20, 1991.JPEG
Candidate Ed Koch Mario Cuomo
Party Democratic Liberal
Popular vote 717,376 587,913
Percentage 49.99 40.97

Mayor before election

Abraham Beame

Elected Mayor

Ed Koch

The New York City mayoral election of 1977 occurred on Tuesday, November 8, 1977.

Incumbent mayor Abraham Beame, a Democrat, was challenged by five other Democrats, including Representative Ed Koch, New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo, and feminist activist and former Representative Bella Abzug for the Democratic nomination. Koch won the initial vote in the Democratic primary, as well as a runoff vote held between him and Cuomo. In the general election, Koch beat Cuomo, who ran on the Liberal Party ticket, and Roy M. Goodman, running on the Republican ticket.




Mayor Beame's struggles with the economy and crime, which had led to a decrease in the population of New York City, encouraged several Democrats to challenge him.

Abzug represented parts of Manhattan and the Bronx in the U.S. House. In 1975, she left her seat to run for the U.S. Senate, but was narrowly defeated in the Democratic primary by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Cuomo, a liberal from Queens, had been appointed Secretary of State by Governor Hugh Carey in 1976, after losing the election for Lieutenant Governor in 1974.

Ed Koch, a Jewish politician from Greenwich Village, began his career as a "just a plain liberal," [1] but shifted rightward, towards being a "liberal with sanity"[2]

Also running were Rep. Herman Badillo of the Bronx, Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, and civic watchdog Joel Harnett.


Roy Goodman served in the State Senate. Barry Farber, a conservative radio talk show host, also ran.


Liberal party

The Liberal Party convention was held on May 19, 1977. Cuomo defeated Abzug for the nomination.


New York City Liberal Party Mayoral Primary, September 8, 1977
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Mario Cuomo 238 95.20
Liberal Abstention 7 2.80
Liberal Bella Abzug 5 2.00
Majority 231 92.40

Republican primary

The Republican primary was held on September 8, 1977. Goodman defeated Farber.


New York City Republican Mayoral Primary, September 8, 1977
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Roy M. Goodman 44,667 56.22
Republican Barry Farber 34,782 43.78
Majority 9,885 12.44

Democratic primary

The Democratic primary was held on September 8, 1977.

Koch ran to the right of the other candidates, on a "law and order" platform. According to historian Jonathan Mahler, the blackout that happened in July of that year, and the subsequent rioting, helped catapult Koch and his message of restoring public safety to front-runner status.[3]


In 1975, with the city on the verge of bankruptcy, Mayor Beame asked the federal government for a bailout. President Gerald Ford refused, leading to the inaccurate but memorable New York Daily News headline: "Ford to City: Drop Dead". As a result, Mayor Beame laid off many police officers and other city employees, which came with an increase in crime.

A 982-page report from the Securities and Exchange Commission blamed Beame's mismanagement for the city's financial mess, which his opponents seized on as an electoral issue.[4]


A major blackout affected New York City from July 13, 1977 to July 14, 1977. The blackout was localized to New York City and the immediate surroundings, and resulted in city-wide looting.

Mayor Beame accused Con Edison, the power provider for New York City, of "gross negligence". Koch criticized Beame for losing control of the streets and failing to ask Governor Carey to call in the National Guard.[5][6]



Poll Source Dates Administered Beame Abzug Cuomo Koch Sutton Badillo
New York Times/CBS News August 23, 1977 17% 17% 14% 12% 9% 7%


New York City Democratic Mayoral Primary, September 8, 1977
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Edward I. Koch 180,248 19.81
Democratic Mario Cuomo 170,488 18.74
Democratic Abraham D. Beame 163,610 17.98
Democratic Bella Abzug 150,719 16.56
Democratic Percy Sutton 131,197 14.42
Democratic Herman Badillo 99,808 10.97
Democratic Joel Harnett 13,927 1.53
Majority 9,760 1.07

Democratic runoff campaign

As no candidate obtained the needed 50%, a runoff election was scheduled. The Democratic Party runoff election was held on September 19, 1977 between the top two vote getters, Koch and Cuomo.


New York City Democratic Mayoral Runoff Primary, September 19, 1977
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Edward I. Koch 431,849 54.94
Democratic Mario Cuomo 354,222 45.06
Majority 77,627 9.88

General election

Though Koch won the runoff convincingly, Cuomo remained in the race as the Liberal Party nominee.

Though Governor Carey had persuaded Cuomo to run for mayor in the first place, threw his support to Koch and urged Cuomo to stand down for the sake of party unity. Cuomo refused.

While Koch had a reputation as a crusading reformer, that summer he quietly promised plum city jobs to the political powerbrokers in the boroughs in exchange for their support.[4] Cuomo ran on banning the death penalty, which backfired with New Yorkers, who were sick of crime. Cuomo then went negative with ads that likened Koch to unpopular former mayor John Lindsay. His supporters used the inflammatory slogan "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo".[4] Meanwhile, Koch backers accused Cuomo of anti-Semitism and pelted Cuomo campaign cars with eggs.[4]


Poll Source Dates Administered Koch (D) Cuomo (L) Farber (C) Goodman (R)
New York Post November 1–3, 1977 49.5% 35.4% 3.6% 3.4%


New York City Mayoral Election, November 8, 1977
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Edward I. Koch 717,376 49.99
Liberal Mario Cuomo 587,913 40.97
Republican Roy M. Goodman 58,606 4.08
Conservative Barry Farber 57,437 4.00
Communist Kenneth F. Newcombe 5,300 0.37
Socialist Workers Catarino Garza 3,294 0.23
United Taxpayers Party Vito P. Battista 2,119 0.15
Independence Louis P. Wein 1,127 0.08
Libertarian William Lawry 1,068 0.07
Labor (United States) Elijah C. Boyd 873 0.06
Majority 129,463 9.02
Turnout 1,435,053


See also

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