Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor who served from 1983 to 1994, died on Jan. 1 after a lengthy hospital stay for heart problems, family members confirmed.
The former governor, known as a Democratic hero, was 82-years-old. The politician’s son, CNN host Chris Cuomo, confirmed his death to the network. Cuomo passed from heart failure on the same day that his other son, Andrew Cuomo, was inaugurated for a second term as governor of New York.
In his inauguration speech, Gov. Cuomo addressed his father’s health issues, citing that as a reason for his absence.
“My father is not with us today. We had hoped that he was going to be able to come; he is at home and he is not well enough to come. We spent last night with him, changed the tradition a little bit. We weren’t in Albany last night; we stayed at my father’s house to ring in the New Year with him. I went through the speech with him. He said it was good, especially for a second-termer. See, my father is a third-termer. But he sends his regards to all of you. 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. 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. So let’s give him a round of applause.”
Hours later, Cuomo died.
The son of poor Italian immigrants, Mario is often remembered as a liberal lion who left a “legacy of progressive governance in New York and throughout the country for the way he stuck to his principles and stood up to the Reagan Revolution when others in his party ran for cover,” according to the Daily Beast.
…Those who mourn him invariably point to his “City on a Hill” speech at the Democratic Convention in San Francisco in 1984. It was a transformative moment for a demoralized party when Cuomo directly challenged Reagan’s “shining city,” saying, “There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don’t see, in the places that you don’t visit in your shining city.”
For Democrats yet to regain their bearings after Reagan’s landslide win in 1980, Cuomo rose like a phoenix at the convention with his forceful exposition of government’s positive role in people’s lives. “He defined what it is for Democrats to have their mojo again,” says Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a centrist Democratic group. “He reminded people my age how it felt to belong to a party that was dynamic and had principles and had ideas at a time when Reagan was stomping all over those things with his message that government is the problem.”
He balanced the budget every one of his 12 years in office, and is credited with stopping the Reagan administration from ending the deductibility of state, local, and property taxes on federal tax returns. He launched the “Decade of the Child” to steer public funds into education and health care, and “Rebuild NY” with bonds for infrastructure. He was an active and important governor, taking the lead in confronting the AIDS epidemic, and making New York the first state to have seat-belt laws.
He rebuffed calls to institute the death penalty, and his last term as governor ended in his defeat. His successor, Republican George Pataki, immediately enacted a death-penalty law, repudiating Cuomo’s longstanding opposition to capital punishment.
“Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo,” Obama said. “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. His own story taught him that as Americans, we are bound together as one people, and our country’s success rests on the success of all of us, not just a fortunate few. Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to Mario’s wife Matilda, his children, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Maria, Margaret, Madeline, and Chris, and his family, friends, and New Yorkers who loved him dearly.”
Both Bill Clinton and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio released formal statements, but also took to Twitter to send their condolences.
Saddened by the passing of Mario Cuomo – a passionate public servant and the embodiment of the American dream. http://t.co/YP6Liuuj2N
— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) January 2, 2015
Tonight, New York has lost a giant. Mario Cuomo was a man of unwavering principle who possessed a compassion for humankind without equal.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) January 2, 2015
Cuomo is survived by his wife of 60 years, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, five children, and 14 grandchildren. May he rest in peace.