Mario Cuomo, the New York governor from 1983 to 1994 and father of current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has died, according to multiple news outlets. He was 82.
He passed away in his Manhattan home, the New York Times reported Thursday. He died of natural causes due to heart failure. Cuomo was temporarily hospitalized in November due to heart problems.
Born to an Italian family in Queens, New York, Cuomo became one of the most prominent members of the Democratic Party as the 52nd governor of New York. He enacted sweeping economic, health care and fiscal reforms during his tenure and became a toast of the party for his outspoken opposition to former President Ronald Reagan. He is survived by wife Matilda Cuomo and children Andrew, Margaret and Christopher, a CNN journalist.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a statement released Thursday, extended condolences to Cuomo’s family, hailing him as “a determined champion of progressive values,” according to media reports.
“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,” Obama reportedly said. “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.”
He passed away only hours after Andrew Cuomo took the governor's oath to resume his second term.
“He couldn't be here physically today ... but my father is in this room,” Andrew Cuomo said during his swearing-in ceremony Thursday. “He's in the heart and mind of every person who is here. His inspiration and his legacy and his spirit is what has brought this day to this point.”
Cuomo's oratory skills pushed him to the forefront of liberalism at a time when the conservative Reagan was at the height of his popularity. Cuomo was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential candidate in both 1988 and 1992 but demurred both times, earning him the nickname “Hamlet on the Hudson.”
Yet he's best known for delivering the keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in 1984, taking the president to task for his depiction of the United States as “a shining city on a hill.”
“Mr. President, you ought to know that this nation is more a 'tale of two cities' than it is just a 'shining city on a hill,'” Cuomo said, referring to the growing wealth disparity in the country.
This story has been updated to add President Obama's statement.