U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey drew a sheepish blush from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo at a White Plains rally Friday morning as she inserted "just a little personal note" about his boyhood as her neighbor in Queens circa 1970.
"When Andrew was 12 years old and lived around the corner from me, he repaired cars like no one in the neighborhood," Lowey recalled, drawing hoots and cheers from the gathering of several dozen pro-choice women, many in pink, who gathered on the steps of the Westchester County Center in White Plains. That skill, Lowey suggested, shows "he can even repair the state of New York." Everyone applauded. She gave him a big kiss.
The rally was hosted by Planned Parenthood Advocacy of New York and the Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion- Choice Matters, which added their endorsements to the pile for Cuomo. But it offered another glimpse of the decades-deep network of relationships, begun under the patronage of Cuomo's father, that have nourished the attorney general's campaign.
Among those at the rally was June O'Neill, the state Democrats' executive committee chairwoman, who traveled six and a half hours from St. Lawrence County to attend. O'Neill and Lowey got to know each other in the 1980s when they worked for then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in the state's regional ombudsmen program, along with another woman who would later be elected to Congress, Louise Slaughter.
"Ombudsman" is actually a Swedish word that derives from the person who used to pick up things like unclaimed bodies from the streets," said O'Neill, who noted that Mario Cuomo imported the practice to the governor's office from the Secretary of State's office, where he was appointed by Gov. Hugh Carey in 1975.
"Over time, it's come to be the person who takes care of things."
"He was very smart, very intense, very ... very caring," is how O'Neill remembers the twenty-something Andrew of that period.