Mario Cuomo’s Ties to New Jersey

January 2, 2015 | Politics
Former NY Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died Thursday, spent a lot of time in NJ during his tenure.

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

Gov. Chris Christie put out a statement saying, “Our country and our region lost a giant today with the passing of Gov. Mario Cuomo. He was a strong, eloquent leader who loved New York and its people. As an Italian-American, he was also a role model for future generations that anything was possible through hard work and education.”

Cuomo dined regularly in New York with his New Jersey counterpart Tom Kean, as he recalled at a forum at the Eagleton Institute four years ago.

“I suspect we talked more together than most governors of New York and New Jersey, and I hope in the future Christie and my son will get together frequently and I wish them the kind of relationship I had with Gov. Kean,” Cuomo said.

That wish appears to have come true, as Christie and Andrew Cuomo take heat together for their joint veto of a Port Authority reform bill last week.

Kean today remembered his friend fondly.

“He was unlike any other political leader I ever knew. He was extremely intelligent, he had a deep knowledge of history, he was a Lincoln scholar, self-taught I think. Philosophy, religion, sports,” Kean said.

Cuomo’s keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic convention stirred that party.

“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,” Cuomo said. “Mr. President, you ought know this nation is more a tale of two cities than it is just a shining city on a hill.”

Kean said, “He certainly articulated the liberal point of view in this country better than anybody else in my lifetime.”

Cuomo became the keynote speaker that year after Walter Mondale nixed Ted Kennedy, fearing a last-minute Kennedy groundswell.

Cuomo’s top aides at the time were Tim Russert and Andrew Cuomo.

“It was getting very close to the convention time. I was trying to help him. He needed he keynote speaker, so I went down and saw Ted Kennedy. I’ve never spoken to him before, we had a couple of drinks and I came back with a deal and Mondale, Timmy and Andrew in the room and said I spoken with Ted Kennedy, he will do the keynote but he will endorse you first. He will endorse you, he will be the keynote, we got him and he said at the other end of the phone, “I don’t want Kennedy.” I said what do you mean you don’t want Kennedy. I almost drank myself to death getting him,” said Cuomo.

Gov. Kean says Cuomo had a Jersey connection few people know about. His wife’s family had a vacation home in the Lake Hopatcong area that Cuomo liked but eventually sold out of concern he’d be criticized for vacationing in New Jersey.