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New York's charismatic Mayor Ed Koch dies at 88

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Serving three terms as New York City Mayor after being elected in 1977, Ed Koch was known for his brash, no-nonsense style. He has passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 88. New York City has lost "an irrepressible icon," current Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Greeting constituents with a "How'm I doin'?" the lawyer-turned-public servant was a U.S. congressman from 1968 until he ran for mayor of the city in 1977.

"In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader," Bloomberg said. "We will miss him dearly, but his good works -- and his wit and wisdom -- will forever be a part of the city he loved so much."

Koch, in an interview in 1998, said he was plain-spoken in his attitude and beliefs. "I think my personality was helpful in this job. I always had a great sense of humor, though I am also pretty reserved personally. I mean, I don't go to chichi parties; never did. I don't like going to dinners other than small dinners at the homes of people. But I realized that if I was to harness the energies of the people of the city of New York and give them back their pride, I would have to become bigger than life. And I did."

Koch stayed busy after leaving his post as mayor. He returned to practice law, hosted a radio show, was a newspaper columnist and made countless appearances on TV series playing what he did best - himself. He was the judge on the syndicated show "The People's Court" for two years.

Koch re-entered political circles in 2011. Angry with the president Obama for his calls for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, Koch crossed party lines to support Republican Bob Turner in his bid to represent perhaps the most Jewish district in the country, which covers parts of Queens and Brooklyn.

Turner won in an upset with 54 percent of the vote, with Koch standing next to him while he gave his victory speech. "I like President Obama ... I helped get him elected," Koch said at Turner's election night party. "But he threw Israel under the bus."

Born in the Bronx on December 12, 1924, Koch's family moved to New Jersey when he was 8. He went to the City College of New York until he was drafted into the Army in 1943. After he left the service as a sergeant in 1946, he studied law at New York University. He began his public service life as a district leader in Greenwich Village in 1963. He also served on the New York City Council before running for Congress.

Considered as "a geeky, relatively obscure congressman, [Koch was] considered too liberal to appeal beyond his Greenwich Village constituency."

His campaign manager, David Garth, came up with a slogan that helped Koch beat fellow Democrat Mario Cuomo, who many commentators viewed as the more dynamic character, and Republican Roy Goodman.

A popular mayor, he won a second term with 75 percent of the vote and a third with 78 percent, but his time eventually came to a close. "With New Yorkers wearying of his in-your-face shtick and seeking a balm to racial polarization, Mr. Koch was defeated for the Democratic nomination by Manhattan Borough President David N. Dinkins," the New York Times reported.

Never married, some said that Koch was a closeted gay man who didn't do enough to stop the AIDS crisis in New York City in the 1980's.

"Listen, there's no question that some New Yorkers think I'm gay, and voted for me nevertheless. The vast majority [doesn't] care, and others don't think I am. And I don't give a (expletive) either way!" he told New York magazine.

There will be a funeral on Monday.

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