Mario Cuomo

5 Policies That Defined Mario Cuomo’s Progressive Legacy

Former New York  Gov. Mario Cuomo (D)

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) | CREDIT: LOUIS LANZANO/ AP

Think Progress

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) died of natural causes due to heart failure Thursday, the same day his son Andrew Cuomo was inaugurated for a second term as governor of New York. He was 82.

In a press statement issued Thursday, President Obama called Cuomo “a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.” Echoing similar sentiments, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement saying that Cuomo’s “values, his vision, and his effectiveness for the people of New York were an inspiration around the world. In word and deed, Governor Cuomo challenged us to make real the American Dream for all who strive to realize it.” Other liberal heavyweights like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also weighed in, calling the former governor “compassionate.”

Hailed as a progressive giant, the former governor, who served three terms as the 52nd governor of New York between 1983 to 1994, championed the rights of working people, middle class families, women, and minorities, setting the stage for liberalism during a time that the political philosophy was “in decline,” the Washington Post pointed out. Cuomo’s “Shining City on a Hill” speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention — deemed one of the greatest speeches of all time — challenged then-President Ronald Reagan (R) to visit rural areas of America and to help lift working people into the middle class. Cuomo charged, “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.’”

Here is just a short list of some of Cuomo’s most progressive causes and accomplishments:

1. Fought for legal abortion. In spite of his strong Roman Catholic belief, Cuomo fought for women to receive legal abortions in New York State. “Those who endorse legalized abortions — aren’t a ruthless, callous alliance of anti-Christians determined to overthrow our moral standards,” Cuomo said in a 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame. “In many cases, the proponents of legal abortion are the very people who have worked with Catholics to realize the goals of social justice set out in papal encyclicals.”

2. Passed nation’s first mandatory seat-belt law. After a 11-year battle in the New York state legislature, Cuomo signed into law the nation’s first mandatory seat-belt law in 1984. Prior to the law’s passage, only about 12 percent of people buckled up, but that figure has since shot up to 91 percent in 2013 in New York state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that seat belts have saved an estimated 11,949 lives.

3. Vetoed the death penalty. For the 12 years he served as governor, Cuomo vetoed the death penalty several times, against public mood at a turbulent time when the crime rate soared in New York. Calling the death penalty “corrosive” and a “stain on our conscience” in 2011, Cuomo lamented that the 48 executions in 2008 were “an abomination” and that the death penalty is unfairly applied across racial lines. Counting the last 18 people in New York State to be executed after 1963, Cuomo found that 13 individuals were black and one Hispanic, “an extraordinary improbability for a system operating with any kind of objectivity and consistency.”

4. Reshaped the New York State Court of Appeals with a diverse group of sitting judges. Cuomo appointed the state’s first African-American, a Hispanic, and two women justices to New York’s highest court, the State Court of Appeals. Judith S. Kaye was the first woman to serve as chief judge. According to a 2013 Albany Law Review piece, Cuomo “remains the last New York State Governor to appoint a Court of Appeals judge from the opposing political party.”

5. Supported banning assault weapons. The former governor has been a longtime opponent of banning assault weapons used in a quarter of the crimes committed in New York state. According to a 1994 New York Magazine article, Cuomo “has supported an assault-weapons ban that is far more serious than the federal one Bill Clinton is poised to sign — it would ban the guns used in a quarter of the crimes in New York — though so far the State Senate has blocked it.” Guns “encourage that instinct we have for brutality that’s everywhere around us,” Cuomo said in 2006 to a group called New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty. “My God. How do you justify it? You can’t move the NRA in Congress.”

10 things you need to know today: January 2, 2015

Marcus Mariota is already a Heisman winner. Next up, national champion?

Marcus Mariota is already a Heisman winner. Next up, national champion? | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Week

Former New York governor Mario Cuomo dies, Oregon and Ohio State advance to the college football title game, and more

1. Mario Cuomo dies at age 82
Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo died Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 82. The liberal Democrat served three terms, and died hours after his eldest son, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was sworn in for his second term. The elder Cuomo served from 1983 through 1994, battling two recessions and repeatedly using his veto to block the restoration of the death penalty. He described America as a “Tale of Two Cities” in a widely praised prime-time 1984 Democratic convention address that fueled calls for him to run for president. [New York Daily News]

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2. Judge tells Florida counties to start issuing gay marriage licenses
A federal judge ruled Thursday that all county clerks in Florida must start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Jan. 6. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of Tallahassee had ruled that the state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional in August, but stayed the decision through Jan. 5 to give Florida officials time to appeal. “The defendants did that,” Hinkle wrote. “They lost.” The U.S. Supreme Court declined to extend the stay. [Reuters]

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3. Search intensifies for AirAsia crash victims
Search teams from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, and the U.S. are helping in an attempt to step up the search for flight recorders and the bodies of passengers from AirAsia Flight 8501 on Friday. Rough weather on Thursday afternoon forced recovery crews to temporarily suspend the search for the main wreckage of the plane, which crashed in the Java Sea on a flight from Indonesia to Singapore on Sunday. [Voice of America, The New York Times]

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4. 2014 was the Syrian civil war’s deadliest year yet
More than 76,000 people were killed in Syria in 2014, making it the deadliest year yet in the country’s civil war, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday. The dead included 3,501 children. The United Nations estimates that 200,000 people have died in the conflict since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. [Agence France Presse]

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5. Oil hits a five-year low on the first day of trading in 2015
Oil prices fell to below $56 per barrel, the lowest level in more than five years, on Friday, the first trading day of 2015. The decline came due to a continuing glut that has cut prices in half since June. The oversupply has come as Saudi Arabia, the top exporter, and other Persian Gulf countries have decided not to cut production despite rising U.S. shale oil production. Some analysts are predicting prices will bounce up this year as major oil projects are canceled. [Reuters]

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6. Gambia makes arrests after coup attempt
Authorities in Gambia arrested dozens of civilians and soldiers after a foiled coup attempt, an intelligence official said Thursday. A military official said that three suspects, including the alleged ringleader, were killed. Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, was out of the country during the Tuesday attack on his palace. He denied the attack was an internal attempt to overthrow him, saying it was an invasion by foreign “dissidents.” [TIME]

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7. Italian hostages in Syria say they fear for their lives
Two Italian women kidnapped in Syria last July appeared in a video released Thursday wearing black veils and saying, “We are in big danger and we could be killed.” The women — Greta Ramelli, 20, and Vanessa Marzullo, 21 — were working as aid volunteers when they were abducted in the besieged city of Aleppo. They had just arrived in the country days earlier. They are believed to have been captured by an al Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, not the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has beheaded five Western hostages. [The Independent]

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8. Marxist group says it was behind attempted attack in Turkey
An outlawed Turkish Marxist group claimed responsibility on Friday for an attack on an Ottoman-era palace that houses the offices of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The offices were used by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he held the post from 2003 to 2014. Neither was present during the attack. The suspect, identified as Firat Ozcelik, allegedly threw two grenades at a guard post, but they didn’t explode. He also had a small gun and an assault rifle. [Agence France Presse]

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9. GM starts 2015 with another recall
General Motors announced three new recalls on Thursday, a sign that a series of problems with ignition switches is continuing to give the automaker problems in the new year. The latest round of recalls involve 83,572 sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The company says the defect — an ignition lock actuator that doesn’t meet specifications — has not been linked to any crashes or injuries. GM recalled 2.5 million vehicles over other defects in 2014 after accidents that caused 42 deaths. [The Detroit News]

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10. Oregon and Ohio State advance to the college football title game
The No. 2 Oregon Ducks smashed No. 3 Florida State’s 29-game winning streak on Thursday with a 59-20 Rose Bowl victory in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The game featured a rare matchup of the last two Heisman Trophy winners — quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida State. In the other semifinal at the Sugar Bowl, No. 4 Ohio State upset No. 1 Alabama. Ohio State and Oregon will play for the national championship in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12. [The Wall Street Journal, USA Today]

Paladino’s Hometown Paper Endorses Cuomo

Surely this comes as no surprise to anyone…

Associated Press

Republican Carl Paladino’s hometown Buffalo News on Sunday endorsed his rival in the New York governor’s race, declaring “there is no choice” but Andrew Cuomo.

The endorsement continues a sweep so far for the Manhattan Democrat. Cuomo’s endorsement include The New York Times, New York’s Daily News, the New York Post, Newsday, and the upstate newspapers in Rochester, Poughkeepsie, Kingston and Glens Falls.

“While it has become trendy to sneer at ‘career politicians,”‘ Sunday’s Buffalo News editorial stated, “the fact is that a good one knows his stuff: How to work the levers of power to best advantage; who the players are; where the bodies are buried. Cuomo knows all that and he has laid out an approach for taking the state back from the special interests and the lawmakers they have bought.”

The editorial states that although Cuomo is “a powerful political insider,” the newspaper believes the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo “will lead.”

“If he accomplishes only half of what he says he wants — detailed in a series of (policy) books he has released — he will have rendered a historic service to the state,” the newspaper said.

The Buffalo News also warned, however, that Cuomo needs to stave off his special interest supporters from whom he “has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars … and, while we recognize that money is the lifeblood of election politics, it is also the grease that has crippled a once proud state.”

Paladino spokesman Michael Caputo said Sunday that the News’ endorsement “has always been the kiss of death in Western New York … now Carl’s supporters here will come out even stronger.”

Recent polls have shown Cuomo with a growing double-digit-percentage lead ahead of the election Nov. 2.

Paladino never accepted an opportunity to make his case to the editorial board, although Cuomo did.

Instead, Paladino over the weekend tried to highlight an article from another newspaper’s news section. A Wall Street Journal article cited records that criticize Cuomo’s governance as federal housing secretary under President Bill Clinton.      Continue reading…