Mario Cuomo, the three-time governor of New York and a leading voice of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing who turned down several invitations to seek the US presidency, died on Thursday at his home in Manhattan, aged 82.
His death came on the day his eldest son, Andrew Cuomo, delivered inaugural addresses in Manhattan and Buffalo, New York, after being sworn in for his own second term as governor.
The governor’s office said in a statement the elder Cuomo, who served as New York’s 52nd chief executive from 1983 through 1994, had died of “natural causes due to heart failure this evening at home with his loving family at his side.”
The former governor, long a celebrated orator who was a favorite of the Democratic Party’s progressive contingent, was hospitalized on November 30th for treatment of a heart condition.
His younger son, Chris Cuomo, of CNN’s New Day, informed the network shortly before 5 pm on Thursday that his father had died. During that time Andrew Cuomo was speaking at the Erie and Buffalo County historical society.
In his inauguration address on Thursday, Andrew Cuomo said he had read his speech to his father the night before.
“He said it was good, especially for a second termer,” the younger Cuomo said. “He couldn’t be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here.”
President Barack Obama, in a statement issued from Hawaii where he was vacationing, saluted the former governor as “an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity and opportunity.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Mr Obama called Andrew Cuomo by telephone to extend condolences.
Former US president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, a US senator who went on to serve as Secretary of State during the Obama administration, said: “It was Mario Cuomo’s great gift and our good fortune that he was both a sterling orator and a passionate public servant. His life was a blessing.”
“Mario’s life was the very embodiment of the American dream,” the Clintons said in a joint statement.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio remembered Cuomo as “a man who campaigned with poetry and governed with beautiful prose.”
Challenged ‘shining city’
Mario Cuomo was first elected as governor in 1982 and came to national attention two years later when he gave an electrifying keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, criticizing the policies of then-President Ronald Reagan and challenged Mr Reagan’s metaphor likening America to a “shining city on a hill.”
Cuomo countered by saying, “A shining city is perhaps all the president sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well.
“But there’s another city; there’s another part to the shining city; the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages, and most young people can’t afford one; where students can’t afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.”