Mario Cuomo

Mario Cuomo, Governor of New York , NYC

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Mario Matthew Cuomo (born June 15, 1932) served as the Governor of New York from 1983 to 1994. Cuomo became nationally known for his rousing keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention and the subsequent speculation over the next two decades that he might run for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States.

He was born in the borough of Queens in New York City from a family of Italian origin (the father was from Nocera Inferiore) and earned his bachelor's degree in 1953 and law degree in 1956 from St. John's University. He was signed by a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and played in their minor league system until he was injured when a ball hit his head.

Political career

He first became a household name in and around New York City in the early 1970s when he represented residents of Queens' Forest Hills section when they opposed the construction of a public-housing development in that neighborhood, which has a high per-capita income and is famous for being the site of the Forest Hills Tennis Center. He ran for lieutenant governor in 1974 but was not elected. He was appointed New York Secretary of State by Governor Hugh Carey in 1975.

Cuomo was defeated by Ed Koch in the 1977 Democratic primary for the New York City mayoral election, but was nevertheless nominated by the Liberal Party. On the Liberal ticket in the general election, Cuomo once again lost narrowly to Koch. Cuomo was elected lieutenant governor on Carey's ticket in 1978. He became governor in 1983, defeating Koch in the 1982 Democratic primary and Republican businessman Lewis Lehrman in the general election, and won election for three consecutive terms, serving until 1995.

Cuomo gave the rousing keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, and media reports speculated during several presidential election campaigns that he might run for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States, but Cuomo always declined to run. Perhaps the closest he came to running was in 1992, when he kept an airplane waiting on the tarmac as he decided whether to fly to New Hampshire to enter that state's primary (Cuomo's mulling in this period is portrayed dramatically in Joe Klein's pseudo-fictional novel Primary Colors). He was also spoken of as a candidate for nomination to the United States Supreme Court, but when President Bill Clinton was considering nominees during his first term to replace the retiring Byron White, Cuomo stated he was not interested in the office. Because of Cuomo's refusal to take up the party's banner for national office despite his popularity within the liberal wing of the Democratic party during the 1980s and 1990s, his name has in some circles become a metaphor for a reticent political leader.

In 1994, Cuomo ran for a fourth term. In this election, Republicans attacked him for his opposition to the death penalty by highlighting the case of Arthur Shawcross (a multiple murderer convicted of manslaughter who was paroled from New York in 1987 and on release became a serial killer). Republicans were able to associate Shawcross with Cuomo much like Willie Horton with Michael Dukakis six years earlier.

Cuomo was defeated by George Pataki in the 1994 Republican landslide that also unseated Texas Governor Ann Richards, and brought a Republican majority to the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. (Cuomo and Richards appeared in a humorous television commercial for Doritos shortly afterward, in which they discussed the "sweeping changes" occurring. The changes they are discussing turn out to be the new Doritos packaging.)

A March 2007 Marist College poll of 641 registered voters were asked whether they thought various governors were good. Governor Cuomo, a Democrat, received a 74 percent favorable rating above those received by Governors Pataki, Carey and Rockefeller. The Marist Poll Director said "When people reflect, people look back and say: 'Mario Cuomo, pretty good governor.' "

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