Daniel L. Feldman

Lindsay campaign 1969 – the better parts

In NYC Politics on March 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm

While I felt somewhat uneasy about my particular role in the 1969 campaign, my affection for Lindsay himself only grew. Much later, I recognized that Lindsay’s second administration in some ways reflected the questionable tactics of the campaign. People for whom I developed tremendous respect, like Liebman, Holtzman, John McGarrahan,  and others who figured prominently in Lindsay’s first term, did not stay for the second, in which more typically political types like Al Unger and Sid Davidoff increased their dominance. Still, Lindsay was the mayor who kept America’s premier city from suffering the urban riots that swept many of its other major cities. He so strongly stood with us students against the war in Vietnam that he lowered the flag at City Hall on Vietnam Moratorium Day three weeks before his election . (City Council Member Matthew Troy, to become Democratic County Leader of Queens two years later, climbed up on the roof and personally raised it. )  Returning to my wonderful position in the Lindsay Administration as a New York City Urban Fellow, I remained swept up by the excitement and potential of this new Camelot.

For one thing, I had won the betting pool. Prior to Election Day, fifty of us – each fancying himself or herself an astute political observer — had each chipped in a dollar, placing our bets on the absolute number of votes we had predicted for each of the three mayoral candidates. I came the closest, and was very proud (and fifty dollars richer).

For another, my increased exposure to Lindsay’s charm had an impact. At a point in the campaign Lindsay was fighting desperately to retain as much as possible of the outer-borough Jewish vote he had attracted in the 1965 election. Lindsay’s running mates were Sanford Garelik, a high-ranking Police Department official, for City Council President, and Fioravante Perotta, City Finance Administrator, for Comptroller. Procaccino’s running mates were Francis X. Smith, who had been appointed to fill a vacancy for City Council President and was now running for election to that post, and Abe Beame, who had served in the post from 1962 through 1965, for Comptroller. So Lindsay’s Jewish running mate was Garelik, and Procaccino’s Jewish running mate was Beame. Lindsay held a press conference with Assemblyman Seymour Posner (no relation to Assemblyman Herb Posner, for whom I had volunteered in high school), who represented a heavily Jewish district in the Bronx, to announce Posner’s endorsement. Posner said, “I endorse Lindsay, Beame, and Garelik – an all-Jewish slate.” Lindsay could not control his laughter for a long time, probably because he was deliriously happy with Posner for conferring Jewishness on him, however facetiously, but it was fun to watch.

Any serious Mets fan knows the significance of October 16, 1969. That day, the Mets won the World Series. New York City includes many Mets fans. Even some other New Yorkers felt good about the victory. Overall, the victory seemed to make New Yorkers feel better about their city. At a press conference soon after Lindsay’s November 4 Election Day victory, a reporter asked him whether he thought the afterglow of the Mets’ victory had contributed in some way to his own success. Lindsay said, “That is an absolutely ridiculous theory. I give it no credence whatsoever. And if you don’t believe me, ask Deputy Mayor Hodges.” Gil Hodges was the manager of the Mets.

I continued to enjoy the Urban Fellowship tremendously. In addition, though, having cut my teeth on “serious” political work in the Lindsay campaign, I found my services requested in other campaigns as well. Over the next few months, I had widely varied experiences in Norman Adler’s brief effort to get on the ballot for the New York State Assembly, Robert Morgenthau’s effort to get on the Democratic primary ballot for Governor, and Liz Holtzman’s successful race for female Democratic leader of the 44th Assembly district in Brooklyn.


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