Edward I. Koch, 105th Mayor of New York City, 1978 - 1989
Edward I. Koch was elected the 105th Mayor of New York City in 1977. Born in the Bronx of Polish Jewish ancestry, Koch's family moved to Newark, New Jersey during the Depression and later moved to Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn when he was a teenager. He left City College when he was drafted into the Army, where he became a decorated combat infantryman, achieving the rank of sergeant. He received his law degree from New York University Law School in 1948. As an active member of a Manhattan reform club, the Greenwich Village Independent Democrats, Koch ran successfully for district leader in 1963 against Carmine DeSapio. Koch was reelected in 1965 and elected to the City Council the following year. In 1968, he was elected to the House of Representatives in a district that hadn't sent a Democrat to Congress since 1934. He was reelected four times, earning a reputation as a competent legislator and a champion of many social causes. In 1977, he sought the Democratic nomination for mayor among a crowded field of candidates. Koch won the primary and went on to defeat Liberal Party candidate Mario Cuomo in the general election. Described in the infancy of his mayoralty as a shy and retiring man, Koch used his inauguration to send New Yorkers a message of redemption: "These have been hard times. We have been drawn across the knife-edge of poverty. We have been shaken by troubles that would have destroyed any other city. But we are not any other city. We are the city of New York and New York in adversity towers above any other city in the world."
With New York City's treasury near empty, Koch restored the city's credit in his first term through a series of budget cutting measures, enabling the city to enter the bond market within a few years and raise capital funds. As the city's fiscal prognosis began to brighten, so too did the mood of New Yorkers. The characterization of Koch as low key was soon revised after he took office, with his ebullient personality, and his trademark greeting, "How 'm I Doin'." Under Koch, the city's annual budget doubled to $26 billion and approximately $19 billion was spent on capital projects in the 1980's.
Koch, who vowed to be the first four term mayor, sought reelection in 1989. However, he was confronted with a series of government corruption scandals. He also faced heated criticism for his combative dealings with other public officials and the press. He lost the Democratic primary to then Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins.
He has remained extremely active and popular since leaving office, practicing law in New York City, lecturing, authoring books, serving as a newspaper columnist, hosting his own radio show, and more recently, serving as a television judge on the popular show, "The People's Court."