Koch Endorses Gore In New York Democratic Presidential Primary
NEW YORK (AP) _ Sen. Albert Gore Jr. picked up the presidential primary endorsement Thursday, for better or for worse, of Mayor Edward Koch who told a news conference: ″I’m available. Have shoes and mouth and will travel.″
″I believe in what Al Gore stands for,″ Koch said, singling out the Tennessee senator’s positions on urban affairs, defense and Israel.
At a City Hall news conference, Gore often appeared stiff as he was relegated to a bit part, standing next to the irrepressible mayor who bantered with reporters and mugged for cameras.
The other dominant figure in New York Democratic politics, Gov. Mario Cuomo, has refused to endorse anyone, saying he would withold his backing until after the last primaries on June 7.
New Yorkers vote Tuesday and Koch was asked what impact his endorsement might have. With an exaggerated shrug of his shoulders and a glance around a room that was filled to capacity, he said: ″Oh, probably nothing. That’s why you’re here.″
The first question after Koch read a statement endorsing Gore was whether he feared that a vote for Gore would help Jesse Jackson by siphoning away votes from Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
″That’s exactly what I’m against,″ replied Koch ″voting for someone to stop someone else.″
Koch stirred a controversy last week when he said that Jews and other supporters of Israel would ″have to be crazy″ to vote for Jackson.
Later on Thursday, Dukakis and Jackson had temperate responses to Koch’s endorsement.
″We had a very good discussion last night,″ Dukakis said in Boston. ″He said that if I won the nomination, he would campaign for me and with me, and I appreciate that.″
Koch had said the choice was between Gore and Dukakis, who added, ″He likes us both.″
In Washington, Jackson said endorsements are positive.
″What he has done by choosing someone is positive and fair and proper,″ Jackson told reporters after a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
But Jackson did condemn what he called Koch’s ″race-based statements.″
″It was not until we got north to New York that the litmus tests of race and religion became spouted from the mouths of public officials without a significant media challenge,″ Jackson said, singling out Koch, President Reagan and former Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro.
At the endorsement news conference he said he was prepared to support the candidate nominated by the Democrats at their convention in Atlanta in July.
Koch said his reason for supporting Jackson ″would not be because I believe in his positions, but I believe he’d be less destructive than the presidency of George Bush.″
Then he added, ″If he (Jackson) wants me to go out and make that statement, I’d be happy to go anywhere.″
As for Dukakis - regarded as the front-runner in the race for the 255 delegates at stake in New York’s on Democratic primary - Koch said he called the Massachusetts governor to inform him he had decided to support Gore.
″He was very charming about it,″ said the mayor. ″Very nice about it. He made it easier.″
Did he call Jackson?
″No, he was never in the running,″ said the mayor.
Koch and Dukakis met for nearly an hour Wednesday night at Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s residence. Neither man commented after the meeting. Koch had a similar session with Gore Tuesday night.
Asked about Gore’s chances of overcoming the big lead polls give Dukakis in the race, Koch recalled that when he ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1982 against Mario Cuomo ″I started out 40-plus points ahead of any other candidate and I upset the odds.″ Cuomo won that primary and went on to be elected governor.
Koch brushed off suggestions that his support might hurt Gore among some New York voters, particularly Hispanics. The mayor said that Hispanics are among his strongest supporters despite criticism from community leaders who objected to Koch’s refusal to accede to their demand that his appoint a Hispanic to the board of education.