When Norman Mailer ran for mayor in 1969

In 1969, New York was on a precipice. Crime was going up, teachers headed out on strike, a snowstorm crippled the city, and there was a sense that things could get a lot worse.

Enter pugnacious author and Brooklyn resident Norman Mailer. Using the campaign slogan “no more bullshit,” Mailer threw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

It wasn’t a joke. Columnist Jimmy Breslin signed on as his running mate, vying to be City Council president.

Their ideas? “I’m running on a platform of ‘Free Huey Newton and floridation,” Mailer told a crowd at the Village Gate. “We’ll have compulsory free love in those neighborhoods that vote for it, and compulsory attendance in church on Sunday in those that vote for that.”

They also advocated that New York City become the 51st state (which wasn’t a novel idea). They pledged the construction of a monorail, a ban on private cars in Manhattan, and monthly vehicle-free Sundays.

When primary day came, Mailer ended up fourth out of five candidates—and John Lindsay won reelection that November.

[Photo: Breslin and Mailer conceding the race, from Dissent magazine]

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8 Responses to “When Norman Mailer ran for mayor in 1969”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I remember when Mailer and Breslin ran, their Sweet Sunday’s instantly attracted my attention. New York for People is what I remember. Too bad they didn’t make it.

  2. petey Says:

    “Mailer/Breslin And The 51st State” was the poster.

  3. Janet Weinberg Says:

    I still have a Mailer/Breslin button which I got when they were running for office and wore it to Mailer’s talk at Hofstra and again at his talk at LeFrak center at Queens College shortly before he died. He saw it and was shocked (or at least ‘surprised’) and said “You still have that old thing” and seemed very pleased. I am not sure what I will do with it. Leave it to my sons, donate it to a museum, sell it, loan it out for exhibitions. Is it rare? Sombody let me know.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    Hey, that’s great ephemera. Thanks!

  5. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Damnit, I also had a button, it was red with black lettering reading Mailer/Breslin. I had it with a stack of other hippie/pacifist buttons I’d saved over the years, the majority from the 60s-70s. Unfortunately, they were all left behind when I had my stroke and moved out of the Lower East Side, now commercialized forever. Oh well, c’est la vie…

  6. Carol Gardens Says:

    Someone donated 100s of buttons last week to Housing Works on Montague Street last weekend. Most from lefty marches and causes of the last 50 years. I bought six and one was a Mailer/Breslin button. Also got one from the levitation of the Pentagon (attempted!)

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    Cool find–I may have to stop by there and see what’s left with a New York angle.

  8. Jared the NYC Tour Guide Says:

    November 10, 2007 Norman Mailer went to dual permanent residences in heaven and hell, commuting on a divine monorail, running express past purgatory and mediocrity.

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