Rudolph Giuliani Mourns Death of ‘Truly Exceptional American’ Mario Cuomo

Governor Mario Cuomo (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Rodale)

Governor Mario Cuomo (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Rodale)

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani—a Republican who crossed party lines to endorse Gov. Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, for re-election in 1994—today offered his condolences after the death of a man he called “a truly exceptional American.”

Cuomo, 82, died yesterday at his home of heart failure, on the same day his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was inaugurated for a second term in the same office his father once held.

“Mario was a giant political influence of his generation. His ability to make riveting political speeches was only exceeded by his ability to logically argue and defend his position,” Mr. Giuliani told the Observer. Even when you disagreed with him you could understand his position and it increased your knowledge of the issue.”

Mr. Giuliani, mayor at the time, backed the Democrat in his quest for a fourth term in 1994, a race Cuomo lost to Republican George Pataki, then a State Senator. It was a controversial move for the tough-on-crime mayor to back Cuomo, whose opposition to the death penalty became a central issue in the race.

“My endorsement of him was very controversial at the time. It took sometime to re-establish my relationship with my party and with my good friend George Pataki,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I was proud to have endorsed a truly exceptional man of conscience and of great intellect.”

The former mayor also referenced their shared Italian heritage. Cuomo was well-known for his attempts to bat down stereotypes of Italian-Americans as criminals.

“He raised the level of respect for Italian Americans and for all elected public servants,” Mr. Giuliani said.

The former mayor is just one of many public officials offering fond remembrances of the late governor, revered among many Democrats for his thoughtful and eloquent defense of liberal and progressive policies at the height of the Ronald Reagan era. President Barack Obama recalled Cuomo as “a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.”