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Ajcongress Slams Cuomo on Jewish Voters’ Statement

September 16, 1977
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The American Jewish Congress has strongly criticized Mario Cuomo, one of two candidates in next Monday’s primary election run-off for the Democratic Party’s mayoral candidate in the November elections for saying that if the Jewish voters elect a Jewish mayor Jews will be blamed if things go wrong for the city. Cuomo’s opponent in the run-off is Rep. Edward Koch, who is Jewish. Koch won 20 percent of the votes in last week’s primary race while Cuomo won 19 percent.

In an interview with the New York Daily News last Monday, Cuomo, who is Roman Catholic, was quoted as saying that if Jewish votes choose a candidate on the basis of religion rather than on merit “I think it will be bad for the Jews, because everything that goes wrong with the city they’ll say, yeah, there’s that Jewish mayor.”

In a letter to Cuomo, Naomi Levine, AJCongress executive director, said that to raise this threat “is a dangerous pandering to ethnic and religious prejudice. ” She said the AJCongress finds it “offensive” that Jewish voters have been singled out on the issue of ethnic bloc voting and noted that over the years Jews have voted for candidates of “many different ethnic and religious backgrounds.”

Continuing, Mrs. Levine, who noted that the AJCongress supports no political candidates, declared: “Would it be ‘bad’ for Blacks if Percy Sutton had been elected or ‘bad’ for Puerto Rican citizens if Herman Badillo had won? Indeed, would it be harmful for Italian Americans if you become mayor and ‘everything… goes wrong’?” Sutton and Badillo were among the other Democratic Party primary candidates who lost in their bids for the mayoral post. Others on the Democratic ticket were the present Mayor Abraham Beame, Bella Abzug and Joel Harnett. The last three are Jewish.

Responding to the AJCongress criticism, Cuomo said it was an “overreaction.” He stated: “I worked with the (AJ) Congress in Forest Hills–they know me. And if they had called me, there would have been no letter. I have a feeling of sadness and I won’t go beyond that.” The reference to Forest Hills was apparently to the fight there several years ago over a low-income project for minority groups in that predominately Jewish area. Cuomo, at that time, worked with many of the area groups to mediate in the issue.

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