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New York City mayoral election, 1977

New York City mayoral election, 1977

November 8, 1977

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

Results by Borough

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, who ran on the Republican ticket.


  • Candidates 1
    • Democratic 1.1
    • Republican 1.2
  • Primaries 2
    • Liberal party 2.1
      • Results 2.1.1
    • Republican primary 2.2
      • Results 2.2.1
    • Democratic primary 2.3
      • Bailout 2.3.1
      • Blackout 2.3.2
      • Endorsements 2.3.3
      • Polling 2.3.4
      • Results 2.3.5
    • Democratic runoff campaign 2.4
      • Results 2.4.1
    • Democratic primary results by borough 2.5
  • General election 3
    • Polling 3.1
    • Results 3.2
    • Results by borough 3.3
  • References 4



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 Convention, May 19, 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 October 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 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 was followed by an increase in crime. (The next month, Ford relented in part, signing the New York City Seasonal Financing Act of 1975, which extended $2.3 billion in federal loans to the city for three years.[4])

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.[5]


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.[6][7]



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 Incumbent 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

Democratic primary results by borough

1977 Democratic Primary Runoff
Manhattan The Bronx Brooklyn Queens Staten Island Total
Edward I. Koch 115,251 69,612 131,271 107,033 9,835 433,002
Mario M. Cuomo 61,570 55,355 112,587 105,522 19,799 354,833
1977 Democratic Primary
Manhattan The Bronx Brooklyn Queens Staten Island Total
Edward I. Koch 50,806 23,453 49,470 52,002 5,812 181,544
Mario M. Cuomo 25,331 23,028 54,845 56,698 10,430 170,332
Abraham D. Beame 23,758 25,747 63,304 44,607 7,337 164,753
Bella Abzug 56,045 20,435 37,236 33,883 4,314 151,913
Percy Sutton 35,012 24,801 42,903 28,525 1,399 132,640
Herman Badillo 27,193 35,007 28,909 9,051 876 101,036

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.[5] 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".[5] Meanwhile, Koch backers accused Cuomo of anti-Semitism and pelted Cuomo campaign cars with eggs.[5]


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
U.S. Labor Elijah C. Boyd 873 0.06
Majority 129,463 9.02
Turnout 1,435,113

Results by borough

General Election
Manhattan The Bronx Brooklyn Queens Staten Island Total
Democratic Edward I. Koch 184,842 116,436 204,934 191,894 19,270 717,376
Neighborhood Government
Mario M. Cuomo 77,531 87,421 173,321 208,748 40,932 587,913
Republican Roy M. Goodman 19,321 6,102 11,491 18,460 3,229 58,606
Conservative Barry M. Farber 9,070 7,624 16,576 20,453 3,714 57,437
others   4,281 1,731 3,752 3,256 761 13,781

Other vote was: Kenneth F. Newcombe – Communist – 5,300; Catarino Garza – Socialist Workers – 3,294; Vito Battista – United Taxpayers Party – 2,119; Louis Wein – Independent – 1,127; William Lawry – Free Libertarian – 1,068; Elijah Boyd – Labor – 873. Cuomo's total vote included 522,942 Liberal and 64,971 Neighborhood Government.


  1. ^ "Ed Koch's Legacy". Gotham Gazette. November 14, 2005. Retrieved July 15, 2007. 
  2. ^ "Paying Their Dues", Ed Koch, New York Press, May 23, 2007
  3. ^ "That 70's Show", Gotham Gazette, May 9, 2005
  4. ^ Russell, Mary (December 10, 1975). "Ford Signs Bill To Aid N.Y.C.". The Washington Post. p. B9. 
  5. ^ a b c d "From the Daily News Archives". Daily News (New York). 
  6. ^ Purnick, Joyce (July 11, 2007). "The '77 Blackout: Inside the Command Center". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  7. ^ Koch, Ed (July 10, 2007). "How I Helped Put Juice Back In The Big Apple". New York Post. 
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