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Mario Cuomo

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Mario Matthew Cuomo (born June 15, 1932) is an American lawyer and New York State Democratic Party politician. He was the 56th Governor of New York from 1983 to 1994.

He was born in the borough of Queens in New York City 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 the minor leagues until he was injured when a ball hit his head. 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 U.S. Open tennis tournament. 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.

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 (an already convicted multiple murderer who was paroled from New York in 1988 and proceeded to go on a kill-crazy rampage). 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 Republican wave 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.)

Cuomo is notable for his liberal political views, particularly his steadfast opposition to the death penalty (while governor, he vetoed several bills that would have re-established capital punishment in New York State; the death penalty was in fact reinstated by Pataki the year after he defeated Cuomo in the 1994 election). He gave the rousing keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, and there has been speculation during several presidential election campaigns that he might run for the Democratic Party nomination for president, but Cuomo has always declined to run. He has also been spoken of as a candidate for nomination to the United States Supreme Court, but when President Bill Clinton was considering nominees during his term, Cuomo reportedly stated he was not interested in the office. As a result of Cuomo's popularity in the liberal wing of the Democratic party, but his refusal to take up the party's banner for national office, his name has in some circles become a metaphor for a reticent political leader.

On abortion, Cuomo is unwavering in his pro-choice views. He has also been outspoken on what he perceives to be the unfair stereotyping of Italian-Americans (he is himself of Italian heritage), complaining bitterly over the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York's decision not to grant reputed Mafia boss Paul Castellano a Catholic funeral or burial after Castellano had been the victim of a highly-publicized murder on December 16, 1985. He also opposed the move of the National Football League's New York Giants and New York Jets to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., choosing instead to attend the home games of the Buffalo Bills while serving as governor, referring to the Bills as "New York State's only team." Cuomo is a strong proponent of the social welfare state.

Cuomo's son, Andrew, served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton from 1997-2001. Mario's younger son Christopher is a journalist on the ABC Network newsmagazine 20/20, and was picked as one of People Magazine's 50 Sexiest People in 1997.


Preceded by:
Hugh Carey
Governor of New York
19831995
Succeeded by:
George Pataki

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