Remembering Ed Koch

by Bob Turner

Ed Koch liked to refer to himself as a liberal with sanity. I always saw myself as a conservative with sanity. This commonality created a friendship that made quite a splash during my campaign for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Amidst an onslaught of partisan politics, party-line rhetoric, and a summer heat wave, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch did the unthinkable: He crossed party lines and endorsed me. Anyone who knew Ed Koch, or followed his career, wouldn’t have been surprised. Ed was a throwback. He knew what he believed to be right, and steadfastly defended that position regardless of the personal or political ramifications. In 2004, he endorsed President Bush, braving the wrath of the New York Democrat party. In short, he was not afraid to be unconventional if he felt it was in the best interest of New Yorkers and Americans. Ed transcended political parties.

Mayor Koch endorsed me, in part, as a protest of President Obama. Ed believed, and rightly so, that the president was not doing nearly enough to support Israel. He and I had no problem seeing eye-to-eye in our unwavering support for the Jewish homeland. We also discussed our political beliefs and found common ground on lightening-rod issues such as Social Security and Medicare, and while we didn’t agree on everything, we continued an ongoing, open dialogue. His support played a major role in my election, and I have no doubt that it caused immense political turmoil within his party.

Sadly, Ed’s belief in bipartisan compromise and pragmatic politicking has seemingly disappeared from our political arenas. Now it’s our turn to heed Mayor Koch’s lessons of an outspoken and honest approach to politics — one in which sane liberals and sane conservatives can find common ground to create long-term, meaningful legislation — not because it helps their respective careers — but because it helps the American people.

Ed was a man of great integrity and great enthusiasm. He changed my life for the better, and helped me achieve the great honor of serving my district as congressman. I am proud to have called him my mayor and my friend. He would often ask “How’m I doing?” We can answer it one last time. You did well, mayor. Rest in Peace.

(The above photograph is of Mayor Koch with several of Bob Turner’s grandchildren and a son in-law on the night of Bob’s election victory in Queens, New York.)

— Bob Turner is a former congressman representing New York’s ninth district.