- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mario Cuomo, the golden-tongued son of Italian immigrants who rode his liberal views and hard-nosed political acumen to the pinnacle of Democratic politics as New York’s governor but repeatedly shunned a run for the White House, died Thursday at the age of 82.

Mr. Cuomo, who had been ailing, passed away just hours after his son Andrew was being sworn in for a second term as governor of New York. The younger Mr. Cuomo’s office confirmed the death late Thursday.

Mario Cuomo rose to national prominence in 1984 with his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention assailing Ronald Reagan, challenging the Republican president’s vision of America as a “shining city on a hill.”

“This nation is more a tale of two cities than it is just a shining city on a hill,” Mr. Cuomo said. “There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces you don’t see, in the places you don’t visit in your shining city.”

The speech invigorated Democrats and made Mr. Cuomo a national star, although it could not prevent Democratic nominee Walter Mondale’s crushing defeat at the hands of Reagan. The address also left Mr. Cuomo a liberal favorite for the White House for the next decade.

Mr. Cuomo teased and flirted with a run but never jumped into the presidential arena, deferring instead to Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Bill Clinton in 1992. Frustrated liberals who encouraged him to run for president would eventually dub him the “Hamlet of the Hudson” for his reluctance to seek the nation’s top political job.

When pressed by the media time and again on whether he might run for president, Mr. Cuomo always responded coyly. “I have no plans and no plans to make plans,” he once quipped.

Mr. Cuomo nonetheless ruled over New York for three terms as governor, embracing liberal spending and social programs and clashing with the Roman Catholic Church over his support for a woman’s right to abortion. Mr. Cuomo said he personally opposed abortion but believed the state had no right to prevent a woman from choosing.

His position angered the Catholic hierarchy, so much that New York’s cardinal once considered excommunicating him. More consistent with his Catholic faith, Mr. Cuomo also remained a steadfast opponent of the death penalty, a position that alienated some New Yorkers as crime rates soared in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He was ousted from the New York gubernatorial mansion by George E. Pataki during the 1994 Republican revolution and retired from politics. He spent his latter years content to watch his children rise to national prominence, including Andrew Cuomo as governor of New York and Chris Cuomo as a television newsman at ABC and now CNN.

The accolades for Mr. Cuomo poured in Thursday night, including from political supporters and opponents alike.

Mr. Pataki took to Twitter to pay tribute to a man he called a “proud son of immigrants, possessed of a soaring intellect & a great New Yorker.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow Italian-American, hailed Mr. Cuomo as a “role model for future generations that anything was possible through hard work and education.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a statement that the city “has lost a giant.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat born in Brooklyn, called Mr. Cuomo “a colossal political mind and represented the very best of public service.”

Andrew Cuomo hinted at his father’s legacy in his remarks while taking the oath of office for a second term, noting his father was too ill to attend in person as he wanted.

“He couldn’t be here physically today, my father,” AndrewCuomo told supporters. “But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point.”

Mr. Cuomo was born in Queens in 1932 to Italian immigrants. He often reflected during his political speeches later in life on his parents’ hard work to run a small store there.

He went to Catholic high school and St. John’s University before his aspiring baseball career landed him a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. His baseball aspirations came to an end when he was struck in the head with a ball.

Mr. Cuomo returned to St. John’s, earned his law degree and rose to prominence in New York City in the 1960s when he successfully represented families in New York who opposed the destruction of their homes for a new high school.

He rode his early legal career successes into a career in politics, being appointed secretary of state and running famously in 1978 against Ed Koch for New York City mayor in what was one of the city’s more bitter campaigns.

Mr. Cuomo lost that year but eventually won the race to succeed Hugh Carey as New York governor in 1982.

Though liberal in his social views, Mr. Cuomo used his power as governor to balance the state’s budget and positioned himself as a financial pragmatic, even as he crusaded for more spending to help children in school and to comfort early victims of the AIDS epidemic­.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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