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Juan González Remembers Pioneering NYC Political Strategist Bill Lynch

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A funeral was held Thursday for the influential New York-based political strategist Bill Lynch, who died last week at the age of 72. In the 1988 Democratic presidential primary, he masterminded Rev. Jesse Jackson’s upset win among New York City Democrats. He played a pivotal role in the election of David Dinkins as New York’s first African-American mayor. In 2009 he helped John Liu be elected as New York City comptroller, making Liu the first Asian American elected to citywide office.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’m Juan González, back from vacation. Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Juan, it’s great to have you back from Puerto Rico. Their loss is our gain. So, yesterday, though, you went to the funeral of Bill Lynch here in New York. For those who might not know who he is, can you talk about who Bill Lynch is?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, well, Bill Lynch was really an icon of the progressive Democrats of New York City now for more than 30 years. He was the behind-the-scenes guy who organized campaigns and trained political candidates. And at the memorial service at the Riverside Church, which was packed with hundreds of people and included all the luminaries of New York politics and also both Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Congressman Rangel, it was a—Winston Marsalis played “Amazing Grace” at the funeral. It was an emotional farewell to a figure who really burst on the scene in 1989 when he masterminded the political campaign of David Dinkins as the first African-American mayor of New York City, but who also was constantly putting forward progressive candidates. His most recent candidate in this mayoral race was John Liu, probably the most progressive of all the candidates, and he helped Liu become city comptroller four years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: And also was involved with President Mandela of South Africa.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, and he organized the trip of Nelson Mandela to New York City, once—shortly after Mandela got out of jail. So he’s been a major figure, but always a behind-the-scenes person. He was never in the limelight, but always nurturing young African Americans, Latinos, Asians and progressive whites to run for political office in New York City.

AMY GOODMAN: So, both Clintons were there?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, and to see both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton sitting side by side, when they don’t always get along—

AMY GOODMAN: What did Al Sharpton say about the Clintons?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Sharpton at one point said—was recognizing all the dignitaries, and he said, “And I want to welcome President Clinton and her husband Bill,” as the crowd laughed, indicating what Sharpton expects to be the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Lynch was clearly a hard worker. Len Riggio, who is the founder of Barnes & Noble, talked about him?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, Len Riggio was a good friend of his, and he remarked at one point that Lynch called him on his cellphone one day urging him to provide financial backing to a Democrat running for the state Senate. And Riggio hears an ambulance in the background, and he says, “Bill, get out of the way in your car. Let the ambulance go by.” And Lynch says, “I can’t. I’m in it.” And he says, “What are you doing in the ambulance?” He says, “I’m on my way to the hospital.” And he says, “Well, why are you calling me on your cellphone?” He said, “I had nothing else to do while I’m waiting to get to the hospital.” That’s the kind of worker Bill Lynch was. He’ll be sorely missed—a decent person, humble person and a great political strategist.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t we begin our first story? And, again, it’s great to have you back, Juan.

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