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1982 New York gubernatorial election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1982 New York gubernatorial election
Flag of New York (1909–2020).svg

← 1978 November 2, 1982 1986 →
Mario Cuomo 1987 (cropped).jpg
Lewis Lehrman.jpg
Nominee Mario Cuomo Lewis Lehrman
Party Democratic Republican
Alliance Liberal Conservative
Statewide Ind.
Running mate Alfred DelBello James L. Emery
Popular vote 2,675,213 2,494,827
Percentage 50.9% 47.5%

1982 New York gubernatorial election results map by county.svg
County results
Cuomo:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%
Lehrman:      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%

Governor before election

Hugh Carey

Elected Governor

Mario Cuomo

The 1982 New York gubernatorial election was held on November 2, 1982 to elect the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York. Incumbent Democratic Governor Hugh Carey chose not to run for a third term, which resulted in an open race. Democratic nominee Mario Cuomo, the Lieutenant Governor of New York, narrowly defeated Republican Lewis Lehrman, a banker who ran as a conservative.

Both candidates had been considered unlikely victors of their respective parties' primaries. Cuomo had unexpectedly defeated Ed Koch, the Mayor of New York City, to win the Democratic nomination. Cuomo was considered a political liberal who worked to revitalize the New Deal coalition.[1] Entering the race as a political novice, Lehrman reportedly spent $7 million to boost his profile through advertising, beginning as early as January 1981. Lehrman ran a law and order campaign, referring to criminals as "savages", and on fiscal policy pledged cuts to the state income tax.[2]

Cuomo ultimately won what was described as "a classic left vs. right battle"[3] by a 50.9 to 47.5 percent margin, buoyed by voters in New York City. Cuomo would go on to serve three terms in office before ultimately losing reelection in 1994.

Democratic primary


  • Mario Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor of New York and former Secretary of New York State
  • Ed Koch, Mayor of New York City since 1978


The Democratic primary shaped up as a rematch of the 1977 New York City mayoral election between Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch. Koch won a Democratic primary runoff narrowly over Cuomo and then defeated Cuomo, running on the Liberal Party of New York ticket, again in the general election. In the meantime, Cuomo had been elected Lieutenant Governor in 1978 and Koch had been re-elected to a second term as Mayor in 1981.

Governor Hugh Carey announced he would not stand for re-election to a third term on January 15, amid low approval ratings and nascent challenges from within his own party, including by Lieutenant Governor Mario Cuomo.[2] After Carey announced he would not run, New York City Mayor Ed Koch entered the race. His decision in turn discouraged Robert Abrams and Carol Bellamy from running.[2]


Koch's status as the early front-runner was quickly derailed by the publication of an interview he had given to Playboy in late 1981, in which he exalted life in New York City and denigrated suburban and rural lifestyles in comparison. On a trip to Albany following the article's publication, Koch was booed loudly. He described the interview as "foolish" and apologized to upstate voters.[citation needed]

Both candidates emphasized their respective records. Cuomo differentiated himself by his opposition to the death penalty, and attempted to link Koch to Republican politicians and President Ronald Reagan.[2] Nevertheless, at the June party convention in Albany, Koch received the party's endorsement with 61% of the vote.

Despite an early pledge of neutrality, Governor Carey endorsed Koch late in the campaign. Cuomo criticized Carey's decision to endorse Koch, and called Carey "a good Governor and a lousy politician.''[2]


Cuomo's victory was considered a "stunning upset" by the New York Times that relied on "an unusual coalition of liberal Democrats, labor, minorities and upstaters."[2] Koch ran strongly in Jewish communities, while Cuomo won black, liberal, and Italian communities by a similar margin.[2] A key to Cuomo's victory was his strong showing in New York City itself; though Koch won the city and its four suburban counties (Rockland, Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau) as expected, Cuomo kept the margin close and won half of the city's Assembly districts. That, combined with large victories in nearly every upstate county, allowed Cuomo to win.[2]

Koch endorsed Cuomo immediately, declaring "what's important to all of us is that we keep a Democrat in Albany."[2]

1982 Democratic gubernatorial primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mario Cuomo 678,900 52.34%
Democratic Ed Koch 618,247 47.66%
Total votes 1,297,147 100.00%

Republican primary




Lehrman spent heavily to raise his profile as a political novice. He spent over a year campaigning before the primary and spent a record $7 million, more than half of which was his own money. He began running television advertisements in January 1981.[2] Curran spent less than $500 thousand.[2] The Harvard Crimson summarized Lehrman's unexpected rise to victory:

"Lehrman saturated the airwaves and took the Republican primary in a romp, reportedly spending more than $6 million of his own money for that initial race alone."[1]

Lehrman was also boosted by the endorsement of the Conservative Party, which was said to "strongly influence" the primary as it had in 1978, giving Lehrman a "head start" against the field.[2] After he received the endorsement and it became evident the Conservative Party would stick by it, Edward Regan declined to run. Regan was widely seen as the leading candidate for the nomination.[2] Regan's decision may also have been influenced by his reliance on Wall Street funding, which was largely devoted to Koch.[2]

Lehrman utilized harsh rhetoric on the issue of crime, referring to criminals as "savages" and criticizing the Court of Appeals for deference to defendants.[2] He pledged "systematic" cuts to the state income tax and raised the possibility of a sales tax reduction.[2]


1982 Republican gubernatorial primary[5]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Lewis Lehrman 464,231 80.59%
Republican Paul J. Curran 111,814 19.41%
Total votes 576,045 100.00%

General election


  • Jane Benedict (Unity)
  • Robert J. Bohner (Right to Life)
  • Mario Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor of New York (Democratic, Liberal)
  • Lewis Lehrman, investment banker (Conservative, Republican, Statewide Independent)
  • John H. Northrup (Libertarian)
  • Nancy Ross (New Alliance)
  • Diane Wang (Socialist Workers)


1982 New York gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Mario Cuomo 2,559,607 48.71% N/A
Liberal Mario Cuomo 115,606 2.20% N/A
Total Mario Cuomo 2,675,213 50.91% -0.04%
Republican Lewis Lehrman 2,248,741 42.80% N/A
Conservative Lewis Lehrman 230,153 4.38% N/A
Statewide Ind. Lewis Lehrman 15,933 0.30% N/A
Total Lewis Lehrman 2,494,827 47.48% +2.26%
Right to Life Robert J. Bohner 52,356 1.00% -2.73%
Libertarian John H. Northrup 16,913 0.32% -0.08%
Unity Jane Benedict 6,353 0.12% N/A
New Alliance Nancy Ross 5,277 0.10% N/A
Socialist Workers Diane Wang 3,766 0.07% -0.20%
Total votes 5,254,705 100.00% N/A
Democratic hold


  1. ^ a b "What Money Can't Buy | News | The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 2021-10-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Lynn, Frank (24 Sep 1982). "CUOMO BEATS KOCH IN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 8 Aug 2021.
  3. ^ Schram, Martin (November 1, 1982). "A Classic Left vs. Right Battle". Washington Post.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Carroll, Maurice (20 Apr 1982). "EX-U.S. ATTORNEY CURRAN IN RACE FOR GOVERNOR AS REPUBLICAN". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 Aug 2021.
  5. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY Governor - R Primary Race - Sep 23, 1982".

This page was last edited on 19 September 2022, at 19:29
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