Mario Cuomo, Ed Koch and the great V.I.D. split
BY TONY HOFFMAN | The passing of Mario Cuomo is sad. He was a liberal lion who gave us hope. People just liked listening to his voice. He was so eloquent. The fact that he also espoused the progressive values that so many of us deeply believed in was icing on the cake. Mario Cuomo will be missed by all New Yorkers. He will especially be missed by those of us at the Village Independent Democrats who were involved in electing him governor in 1982.
This story starts in 1981 when Ed Koch was running for re-election as mayor. Even though many of us endorsed Koch in 1977, and worked to get him elected, we were disillusioned with him. His rightward drift and his tendency to divide as a tactic for governing alienated many of us.
When the liberal assemblyman from Brooklyn, Frank Barbaro, announced for mayor, we jumped on his bandwagon and tried to get him a V.I.D. endorsement. However, Ed Koch still had many friends and supporters in V.I.D. and he carried the day. He also easily won the primary and the general election for a second term as mayor.
In 1982 Governor Hugh Carey announced that he wasn’t running for a third term. First, his lieutenant governor, Mario Cuomo, and then Mayor Koch proclaimed that they would seek to become the next governor of New York.
This set the stage for a rerun of the battle between the pro-Koch and anti-Koch forces at V.I.D. It was an epic. In those days, a person could join V.I.D. and had only to wait 30 only days until they could vote. Both sides busily recruited new members. Many of us contacted relatives that we normally only would see at weddings and funerals.
The V.I.D. membership list was scoured with a fine-toothed comb. Dues came tumbling in. Finally, the big endorsement meeting came and went. Even though Mario Cuomo received a plurality of the votes cast, he didn’t receive a majority. “No endorsement” received enough votes to prevent either candidate from receiving a majority.
Another vote was scheduled for a couple of weeks later. Again, well more than 300 people were in attendance, including a number of reporters. This time Mario Cuomo got a majority and received V.I.D.’s endorsement.
Cuomo’s endorsement was all over the news that evening and for days to come. Not only was V.I.D. the first major political club to endorse Mario Cuomo for governor, but V.I.D. was Ed Koch’s home club. That was news and it gave Cuomo a major boost in his underdog campaign for governor. Cuomo never forgot what V.I.D. did for him and stayed close to us throughout his 12 years as governor.
One of the consequences of the endorsement of Mario Cuomo by V.I.D. was the formation of the Village Reform Democratic Club (V.R.D.C.). Let me explain. In December 1982 V.I.D. held elections for president and three vice presidents of the club. In reality, this election was for control of V.I.D.
The pro- and anti-Koch forces each put up a slate of four candidates. They recruited to such an extent that the auditorium at P.S. 41 had to be rented to hold the meeting. Over 1,000 people showed up to vote.
In the end, the pro-Cuomo people had the larger “family network” and won all four officers. Subsequent to these two losses, the pro-Koch folks left V.I.D. and formed V.R.D.C.
And the pro-Cuomo people changed the V.I.D. constitution to extend the waiting period before a new member can vote to 90 days.