(The Root) — Bill Lynch, one of the most prominent African-American political consultants in the nation, died Friday at age 72. Though Lynch was known to be battling diabetes, the cause of death was complications from kidney disease.
Lynch was credited with masterminding the election of New York City’s first and, to date, only black mayor, David Dinkins. He played a crucial role in forming the so-called black and brown coalition of black and Latino voters, which formed the foundation of Dinkins’ historic victory. Lynch would be named deputy mayor for intergovernmental relations in the Dinkins administration.
Upon founding his political consulting firm, Bill Lynch Associates, he would also go on to have a prominent career nationally, serving as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and as co-chair for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
But Lynch’s greatest legacy may end up being through those he mentored, many of whom went on to become successful political operatives, consultants and candidates in their own right. In a statement to The Root, New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio said that he was mourning the loss of his friend of more than two decades and said that Lynch “inspired two generations of activists and public servants to make a difference in this city.” But others contacted by The Root noted that while Lynch touched New Yorkers of all races, his influence might have been greatest among the black Americans he ushered into the field of politics and political consulting in his more than 30 years at the top of the field.
Basil Smikle was among those mentored by Lynch. Smikle would go on to work on the 2000 senate campaign of then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. He would eventually serve in a senior role in her Senate office after her election. Smikle now runs his own successful political consulting firm and credits Lynch with opening doors, saying Lynch “showed that we are good at analyzing more than just black politics. Away from being pigeonholed, he helped strategists like me negotiate the politics and policies of any community and at any level of government.”
Elinor Tatum, publisher and editor of New York’s oldest black newspaper, the Amsterdam News, said it was through preparing the next generation of leaders that Lynch has left his greatest legacy. “Bill Lynch Associates was the training ground for most African Americans in politics in New York whether onstage or behind the scenes. Any black operative in New York either worked for Bill Lynch or worked for a campaign he ran. He really became the grandfather of black political operatives in this city and the country.” Tatum, who knew Lynch her entire life, added, “The lives he affected in bringing young people along in the political process — the impact is immeasurable. He changed the face of New York City politics and made the careers of so many people.”
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.