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Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who served three terms from 1983 to 1994, and whose son currently holds the office, has died at the age of 82.
Cuomo died of heart failure Thursday evening, hours after his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, delivered a speech to kick off his second term as governor. Andrew Cuomo said his father was unable to attend the ceremony because of his health, but was present in spirit.
"He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here," Andrew Cuomo told the crowd. "He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought the state to this point. So let's give him a round of applause."
Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, was known for his soaring oratory. In 1984 he delivered a powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention in which he highlighted poverty and inequality to attack President Ronald Reagan’s declaration that the nation was "a shining city on a hill." The address drew national attention.
"This nation is more a tale of two cities than it is just a shining city on a hill," Cuomo said.
Cuomo was considered a favorite to make a run at the White House, but he stayed out of presidential races in 1988 and 1992. Cuomo agonized so publicly over whether to run that he was dubbed "Hamlet on the Hudson."
In 1993, he turned down an opportunity to be nominated by President Bill Clinton for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, saying he wanted to stay in politics.
President Barack Obama hailed the son of Italian immigrants for a life of public service dedicated to progressive values. "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," Obama said in a statement.
Born in Queens, Cuomo was appointed as New York’s secretary of state by Gov. Hugh Carey in 1975 and was elected lieutenant governor in 1978. He beat Lewis Lehrman to win the governor’s office in 1982 and was re-elected two more times, in 1986 and again in 1990. He ran for a fourth term but was defeated by George Pataki.
Cuomo was hospitalized for a heart treatment in November. He was described as being “in good spirits” at that time.
Tributes came from both sides of the political aisle Thursday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said, "Tonight, New York City has lost a giant. Mario Cuomo was a man of unwavering principle who possessed a compassion for humankind without equal."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said, "He was a colossal political mind and represented the very best of public service; he leaves an indelible legacy on the state he loved." Pataki said Cuomo was "possessed of a soaring intellect" and "a great New Yorker."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, sent his condolences and also called Mario Cuomo a "giant." "He was a strong, eloquent leader who loved New York and its people," Christie said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.