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Ex-Westchester County Exec Andrew O'Rourke dies

Andrew O'Rourke, who served as Westchester County executive from 1983 to 1997, has died. He was 79.

O'Rourke, a Republican, died Thursday night at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx after a long illness, according to the office of incumbent Robert Astorino.

In 1986, while county executive, he ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo.

"Andy always put his deep intellect, self-deprecating humor, and unwavering integrity toward serving the people of New York," Cuomo's son, current Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said in a statement.

He cited O'Rourke's ability "to gracefully disarm political opponents as well as ease the tension of a heated debate in the courtroom."

Among his accomplishments as county executive, O'Rourke expanded the Westchester County Airport, the county jail and open space. He also renovated the Westchester County Center and turned a former dump into Croton Point Park.

In the 1980s, he built transitional housing to address the county's homeless population and reliance on motels to house homeless families.

O'Rourke later served as state Supreme Court justice.

"Andy O'Rourke was a great judge, an outstanding county executive and most important, he possessed a warm, funny and generous spirit," former Gov. George Pataki said in a statement. "He brought excellence and integrity to all he did in public life and will be greatly missed."

O'Rourke began his political career as a member of the Yonkers City Council, serving from 1966 to 1973. From 1973 to 1982, he served on the county Board of Legislators, the last four years as chairman.

Known for his wit, O'Rourke ran television spots when he ran for governor featuring himself and a life-size cardboard cutout of Mario Cuomo, whom O'Rourke tried to portray as the "one-dimensional governor" who refused to come out and debate.

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