Herman Badillo

Herman Badillo (pronounced bah-DEE-yoh;[1] August 21, 1929 – December 3, 2014)[2] was an American politician who served as borough president of The Bronx and United States Representative, and ran for Mayor of New York City. He was the first Puerto Rican elected to these posts, and the first Puerto Rican mayoral candidate in a major city in the continental United States.[3]

Herman Badillo
Herman Badillo.JPG
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York
In office
January 3, 1971 – December 31, 1977
Preceded byJacob H. Gilbert
Succeeded byRobert Garcia
Constituency22nd district (1971–1973)
21st district (1973–1977)
8th Borough President of The Bronx
In office
December 28, 1965 – December 31, 1969
Preceded byJoseph F. Periconi
Succeeded byRobert Abrams
Personal details
Born(1929-08-21)August 21, 1929
Caguas, Puerto Rico
DiedDecember 3, 2014(2014-12-03) (aged 85)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic Republican
Alma materBrooklyn Law School
City College of New York

Early years and personalEdit

Badillo was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico.[4]

When he was 11 years old, both of his parents died of tuberculosis and he was sent to live with his aunt in New York City. After graduating from the public school system at Haaren High School,[5] Badillo attended the City College of New York earning a Bachelor's degree in 1951. In 1954 he received an LL.B. from Brooklyn Law School, graduating first in his class. The next year he was admitted to the New York State Bar. In 1956, he also became a certified public accountant.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Early political careerEdit

After joining the Caribe Democratic Club in 1958, Badillo held various offices within the City and State, including Bronx Borough President in 1966. Prior to that he served as New York Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development.[3]

Embarking on his role as Bronx Borough President in January 1966, Badillo was met with the ongoing advocacy for the preservation of Bronx Borough Hall as a landmark, led by prior Bronx Borough President Joseph F. Periconi. Periconi had, along with several historians, successfully attained landmark status for the building in October 1965, bestowed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It was then placed under final review by the Board of Estimate of New York City. On January 27, 1966, the last day of the 90-day review period, the board voted to revoke the landmark status, deferring to the new incumbent's view on the matter.[15] In 1968 a mysterious fire burned part of the interior. Though still repairable, it was demolished in 1969.

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

In 1970 Badillo was elected to the United States House of Representatives from New York's 21st District in the South Bronx, becoming the first Puerto Rican to so serve. He was re-elected for three subsequent consecutive terms. He was also a member of the Committee on Education and Labor.[7][16]

In 1976 he was challenged by South Bronx Councilman Ramon Velez in a contest for the Democratic Party nomination for Congressman of the 21st District. Badillo was reelected easily with 75 percent of the vote. In December of that year, he was one of the five Latino members of Congress who established the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.[7] Largely by his efforts, job training for unemployed non-English speaking citizens was included in the "Comprehensive Manpower Act of 1973".

Badillo also served on the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee and the Small Business Committee, where he had a seat on the Minority Enterprise and General Oversight Sub-committee. During his time in office he supported legislation intended to counteract various types of discrimination in employment, including discrimination base on age and marital status.[7][4]

Although he would later become a vociferous opponent of bilingual education,[6][17] as a congressman Badillo was one of the first champions of funding for bilingual education programs. Some proponents of bilingual and ESL education, and opponents of English immersion, attacked Badillo for his newfound opposition to Spanish-language teaching. He was also a critical player in the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and the inclusion of its language access provisions. During his tenure in Congress, he became an important national spokesperson for Federal investment in urban centers.[1]

Mayoral campaignsEdit

Badillo sought the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York in 1969, 1973, 1977, 1981 and 1985. In the 1973 Democratic primary he came in second with 29% of the vote behind Abe Beame (34%) and ahead of Mario Biaggi (21%) and Albert H. Blumenthal (16%).[18] His closest contest came in his second attempt when he was defeated by then-New York City Comptroller Abe Beame in a runoff primary, in 1973. This was the first election with a primary run off.

In 1981 and 1985 he did not appear on the ballot, dropping out after early moves to stage a campaign failed to generate broad enough support. Badillo unsuccessfully sought a Republican mayoral nomination in 2001, losing in a landslide vote for billionaire businessman and political neophyte Michael Bloomberg who would later prevail in that general election.[1]

Deputy Mayor of New York CityEdit

Badillo resigned from Congress on December 31, 1977, to become deputy mayor of New York City under Mayor Ed Koch, a position he held until September 1979.[19] Badillo was one of seven deputy mayors appointed by Koch for the first portion of his administration. He served alongside Basil Paterson. As a deputy mayor Badillo handled labor relations and community outreach for Koch. In a major public disagreement with Mayor Koch over the lack of support for his program to revitalize the South Bronx, Badillo resigned his post. Some argue that Badillo made a major career mistake in giving up his Congressional post for this appointed position under Mayor Koch.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Post-City Hall career and State Comptroller campaignEdit

After leaving City Hall, Badillo worked as an attorney in New York City. He supported Mario Cuomo for governor over Koch during the 1982 Democratic primary. In late 1983 Cuomo appointed Badillo Chairman of the State of New York Mortgage Agency. In 1985 Badillo considered a bid for mayor against Koch in the Democratic primary. The 1985 mayoral election had consequential politics for New York City.[20] In 1986 Badillo was the Democratic nominee for New York State Comptroller, losing to Republican incumbent Edward Regan. During these years Badillo was also active in Presidential politics, supporting Alan Cranston for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984[21] and Michael Dukakis in 1988.[6]

City Comptroller campaignEdit

In 1993, Badillo, though still a Democrat, campaigned for Comptroller of New York City on a "fusion" basis with Republican Rudy Giuliani's mayoral campaign. He also sought the Democratic nomination, but finished third, behind Alan Hevesi and the incumbent Comptroller, Elizabeth Holtzman. Although Giuliani won the general election, Badillo, running on the Republican and Liberal party lines, was defeated by Hevesi.[3][22]

In 1993 Eric Adams, while President of the Grand Council of Guardians, accused Badillo of betraying his Hispanic heritage by having as his wife a white, Jewish woman (Irma, to whom Badillo had been married for 32 years, and who had Alzheimer's), instead of a Latino.[23][24][25][26][27] Badillo responded that "Voting based on race is the definition of racism, and has no place in a civilized multiracial society..."[27] Badillo added: "I don't apologize to anyone for the fact that my wife is Jewish."[24]

Giuliani administration and CUNY chairmanshipEdit

Badillo held a series of positions with the Giuliani administration, serving as the mayor's Special Counsel on education policy and as chairman of the board of trustees of the City University of New York.[17] In his capacity as Giuliani's education advisor, Badillo advocated increased mayoral control of the public schools and a revamped curriculum; he was also Giuliani's liaison to the city's board of education. As CUNY Chairman Badillo organized a successful effort to

  • eliminate open enrollment,
  • "ending remedial programs at CUNY's 11 senior college,"[17]
  • "deny entry to students who fail reading, writing and math tests,"[17]
  • and revamp the curriculum.

These actions gained him some support among conservatives but alienated him from the mainstream of the Puerto Rican political leadership, which had been his traditional base.

In 1999, Badillo's remarks about Latino immigrants ignited calls for his dismissal. His reference to recent Dominican Republic and Mexico immigrants as "pure Indians -- Incas and Mayans who are about, you know, five feet tall with straight hair," and never having a "tradition of education" were widely criticized, and he apologized two days later.[28]

Republican Party switch and 2001 mayoral campaignEdit

In the late 1990s Badillo formally joined the Republican Party. He resigned as education special counsel and CUNY Chairman when announcing his candidacy for mayor in 2001. Despite his strong support of Mayor Giuliani, Badillo's bid for mayor never received serious support from Giuliani or the Republican Party, and lost badly in the Republican primary to billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who had just switched parties as Badillo had done earlier.[2][7][4]

Later careerEdit

In 2005, Badillo became "of counsel" to the New York City law firm of Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. In 2006 he joined the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research as a senior fellow.[7][4][2] In January 2011 Badillo joined national personal injury law firm Parker Waichman Alonso as a senior counsel in its New York office.[29] Badillo died on December 3, 2014, of congestive heart failure at the age of 85.[1]

NYS and NYC tickets Herman Badillo ran onEdit

1986 NYS Democratic TicketEdit

1993 NYC Republican and Liberal ticketEdit


  • A Bill of No Rights: Attica and the American Prison System (New York: Outerbridge and Lazard, Inc., 1972). With Milton Haynes.
  • Plain Talk: The Politics of Administration (Greenvale, N.Y.: Department of Health and Public Administration, C.W. Post Center, Long Island University, 1981).
  • One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups (New York: Sentinel, 2006.)(Penguin (December 28, 2006), hardcover, 256 pages, ISBN 1-59523-019-X, ISBN 978-1-59523-019-5)
    This book generated major controversy within the Latino community before it was even published because of an inflammatory article in the New York Post (Dec. 19, 2006, p. 8) announcing its release. In the book Badillo criticizes what he perceives as a lax work ethic among Hispanics, who he contends do not value education as much as other immigrants just as historically impoverished but more successful, such as Asian-Americans.
    In contrast to the support he gave to bilingual education during his early career, his book attacks what he describes as obstacles to assimilation, such as bilingual education, and urges Hispanics to eschew government solutions and adopt instead the cultural values that have made previous generations of American immigrants prosperous and successful. His view is that Hispanics will soon make up 25% of the population of the United States and that their failure to excel would be tragic for them and the nation.[7][14]


"His death, at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital, was caused by complications of congestive heart failure, his son, David, said."[1]

There is a school in Buffalo, New York called Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Robert D. McFadden (December 4, 2014). "Herman Badillo, Congressman and Fixture of New York Politics, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Celeste Katz; Jennifer Fermino (December 3, 2014). "Herman Badillo, first Puerto Rico-born U.S. congressman, dies at 85". New York Daily News.
  3. ^ a b c "BADILLO, Herman | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "Hispanic Americans in Congress -- Badillo". loc.gov. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  5. ^ "One On 1: Politician, Educator Herman Badillo Asks What If" Archived November 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, NY1 News, 11/03/2008
  6. ^ a b c Maria Newman (April 11, 1994). "TURMOIL IN THE SCHOOLS: THE MAYOR'S MAN; Urging Higher Standards, Badillo Begins Work as Education Overseer". The New York Times.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Of Counsel Profile" - biography on law firm website
  8. ^ a b New York City Campaign Finance Board: The 2001 Voter Guides Archived 2006-05-04 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b Badillo for Mayor Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine Endorsement by the New York Press.
  10. ^ a b Manhattan Institute Scholar Herman Badillo Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b Badillo Lashes Latinos Archived 2007-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b Badillo Is Said to Be Switching to the Republicans
  13. ^ a b The best candidate won't win this time by George Will
  14. ^ a b c Stalled in America (Why one Hispanic immigrant is being trashed for his blueprint for success)
  15. ^ Grey, Christopher (April 8, 1990). "STREETSCAPES: Bronx Borough Hall; $711,000 to Revive a Grand Stairway to Nowhere". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  16. ^ "Badillo Gains Aid In Transfer Bid". The New York Times. February 3, 1971.
  17. ^ a b c d Susan Edelman (June 4, 1999). "Mad Grads boo Badillo at Hunter ceremony". The New York Post. p. 18.
  18. ^ "Primary Biaggi Still Holds The Key". The New York Times. June 24, 1973.
  19. ^ Carl Campanile (December 4, 2014). "Former deputy mayor Herman Badillo passes away". The New York Post.
  20. ^ "Al Vann and the Revolution. Unplugged". November 1997.
  21. ^ "Black-Hispanic Support Group Set Up by Cranston for '84". The Washington Post. September 18, 1983.
  22. ^ Dao, James (September 30, 1993). "Hevesi Attacked by Badillo As From 'Queens Machine'". New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  23. ^ "THE AD CAMPAIGN; Mr. Badillo Invokes Race". The New York Times. October 6, 1993. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Jonathan P. Hicks (September 27, 1993). "Comments From Dinkins Backer Draw Fire From Giuliani Camp". New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  25. ^ Robert Kolker (August 14, 2000). "The Big Payback". NYmag. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  26. ^ "New York Magazine - Google Books". April 4, 1994. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  27. ^ a b "New York Magazine - Google Books". October 18, 1993. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  28. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (October 2, 1999). "Officials Back Badillo Amid Furor on Hispanic Remarks". The New York Times.
  29. ^ Daily News. New York http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2011/01/herman-badillo-to-parker-waichman-alonso. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Borough President of the Bronx
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 22nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 21st congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic Nominee for New York State Comptroller
Succeeded by
Preceded by Republican Nominee for New York City Comptroller
Succeeded by