Former three-term New York Gov. Mario Cuomo dies at 82
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Mario Cuomo, a son of Italian immigrants who became an eloquent spokesman for a generation of liberal Democrats during his three terms as New York governor, died Thursday. He was 82.
Cuomo died the day his son Andrew started his second term as governor of the state.
He died from heart failure at his home with his family by his side, according to a statement.
Cuomo loomed large in New York politics as governor from 1983 through 1994. He became nationally celebrated for his ability to weave the story of his humble upbringing with ringing calls for social justice.
But he was also well known for the presidential races he stayed out of in 1988 and 1992.
President Obama said Thursday night, “An Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service — and we are all better for it. He rose to be chief executive of the state he loved, a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.”
Cuomo was married to his wife, Matilda, for more than six decades. They had five children.
Asked once how he wanted to be remembered, Mario Cuomo replied: “One of the simple things I wanted to achieve is — I want to be governor. I want to be the hardest working there ever was. And I want, when it’s over — and I figured on four years at first — I want people to say, now, there was an honest person.”
Cuomo burst onto the national political stage with his keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
To say he was a powerful speaker would be an understatement.
Cuomo was born in New York City, in the apartment above his father’s grocery store. After a brief shot at a career in minor league baseball, he pursued a law degree and graduated at the top of his class at St. John’s University School of Law.
Although the allure of public service was strong, Cuomo’s early attempts at seeking political office ended in defeat.
His first electoral success came in 1978 as running mate to former Gov. Hugh Carey. Four years later, Carey stepped aside, and Cuomo entered the race and won.
He held the governorship for three terms, winning two more handily by emphasizing lower taxes, balanced budgets, public education and affirmative action. He was a strong opponent of the death penalty.
In 1993, Cuomo passed up the opportunity to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, choosing instead to run for a fourth term as governor. He lost in 1994.
‘You can now sleep with the greats’
His death touched people across the political spectrum.
Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, praised Cuomo’s 1984 address as one of his all-time favorite speeches.
“Used to read it constantly for inspiration,” he tweeted.
“Our country and our region lost a giant today with the passing of Governor Mario Cuomo,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “He was a strong, eloquent leader who loved New York and its people. As an Italian-American, he was also a role model for future generations that anything was possible through hard work and education.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton remembered the former governor as “the last liberal giant of New York politics.”
“He was a philosopher at heart that always saw the bigger picture. Even when we would engage in debate I felt he was playing chess while I was playing checkers,” he said. “Mario, you have earned it and your place in history is secure. You can now sleep with the greats.”