Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hugh L. Carey

Hugh Carey…A Governor for his time, and ours

I first met Hugh Carey when the then Brooklyn congressman was running for Governor, and he brought his entire clan (12) children with him in a Winnebago to Oswego. We met in 1974 , at West park, where he gave one of his classic stump speeches at the time…”Nelson Rockefeller spent our money like it was his money..”. An Irish politician, a recent widower, with a big family, and a penchant for oratory? I was hooked!
Up to that point, I had been backing Howard Samuels (Howie the Horse) from Canandaigua. That all changed when I met Hugh Carey and his clan. A relatively short man, when he stepped up onto a soapbox, he grew taller, exhibiting a compelling persona, and a mesmerizing Irish gift of gab that would serve him well in the coming years as steward of NY’s post Rocky, rocky recovery. period. Never the mind that off the stump, he could be curt, even crude, and cool, not always brimming with camaraderie. My mentor John O’Connor Conway (later to be named Supreme Court Justice Conway by Hugh Carey, himself), explained it to me this way.. He’s “black Irish” translated, meaning he has some of the genes left over from the Spanish Armada invasion of Ireland, which tend to cause periods of deep brooding and melancholy, and he had only recently lost his wife Helen. That was good enough for me, a third year law student at the time at Syracuse University, and a budding politician in the waiting, having already gotten elected to my first term as an Oswego County Legislator.
My interaction with Hugh L. Carey would continue for another 37 years. We went to Niagara Falls, to cheer him on at the convention (where I first met Mario Cuomo from Queens), and then through the primary, which he handily won over Howie Samuels, and then onto the Governor’s mansion, where he moved all of his kids in on ‘ Day one‘, with hardly a room to spare! He would come back to Oswego several times, and each time I was accorded an opportunity to chat with him, as well as cheer for him. One trip to the Hotel Pontiac for a fundraiser in 1975 is seared in my memory. He came to the Hotel Pontiac, a grand old small town hotel, whose better days had already come and gone…we reserved the “Presidential suite “ for him…he later commented, privately, “It’s great to be back in Oswego, but As far as your hotel is concerned, on the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia! (intoned in a deprecating imitation of the late WC Fields) We all laughed heartily! (
I served that next Spring as an Assembly research assistant, after a failed bid to become Oswego’s second democratic Assemblyman (I came close..but no cigar…). I attended many functions at the mansion, sat through many of his speeches, and marveled in his political acumen, and Irish wit and uncanny political skills.

To be continued……..