Long before he shaped the political landscape and influenced an Oscar-winning screenplay, David Garth was a Woodmere resident who was born David Goldberg on March 5, 1930 to Leo Goldberg, a lingerie manufacturer, and Beulah Jagoda, who was national vice president of the American Jewish Congress, according to a 1980 New York Times article.
Garth, a primary advisor to Democratic and Republican mayors who directed their campaign, died at his home in Manhattan on Dec. 14. He was 84.
With his own firm, the Garth Group Inc., he led the way in using political television advertising. Beginning in 1965, his methods propelled Republican John Lindsay to become New York City mayor. Democrat Ed Koch, Republican Rudy Giuliani and then Republican Michael Bloomberg also became NYC mayors due to Garth’s strategies. In 1874, he helped Hugh Carey, a Democrat, become the state’s governor.
“I never met David, but he was known in our circles as being a political genius and mastermind, always knowing what to say, when to say it and how to make the other guy look like he doesn’t,” said Cedarhurst resident Jeffrey Leb, a political strategist.
Garth served as media manager for former New Jersey Gov. Brendan T. Byrne, a Democrat, and was a campaign manager for former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania, a Republican. His methods also assisted Democrats Tom Bradley and Jay Rockefeller, a mayor of Los Angles and a governor of West Virginia, respectively, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Taking the name Garth from a former gangster-turned-violinist in Maxwell Anderson’s play “Winterset” the noted political advisor was the basis for the character portrayed by Peter Boyle in the 1972 movie “The Candidate” starring Robert Redford that won an Academy Award for best original screenplay by Jeremy Larner. Garth attended Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, and served in the U.S. Army’s intelligence branch.
“My father came here from Russia and his name wasn’t Goldberg, it was Nisinnyevich,” he said, according to the Times. “Immigration gave him Goldberg. He always said, change it back or find something you like. Garth had the same initial and I liked the sound of it.”