- Last Updated: 3:14 AM, August 10, 2012
- Posted: 1:04 AM, August 10, 2012
Ray Harding, the larger-than-life political boss and power-broker who helped elect Mario Cuomo governor and Rudy Giuliani mayor, died yesterday of cancer. He was 77.
From 1977 until 2002, his control of the tiny Liberal Party made Harding (inset) one of the most powerful figures in New York politics.
“He was a great tactician,” recalled political consultant George Arzt.
But Harding’s career ended in disgrace in 2009, when he admitted taking $800,000 in the state pension scandal that ensnared former city and state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Henry Stern, elected to the City Council on the Liberal line, said Harding was one of the last of a breed. “He was bold in a way people aren’t today,” Stern recalled.
Harding took the political gamble of his life by backing Republican Giuliani for mayor over Democrat David Dinkins in 1989, providing an extra ballot line that drew enough votes to give Giuliani a narrow victory.
The Liberty Party crashed in 2002, when Andrew Cuomo was its candidate for governor — just as his father was in 1982 — and withdrew to back Democrat Carl McCall. Unable to secure 50,000 votes, the party lost its ballot line.
Funeral services will be held Sunday at Riverside Chapel on West 76th Street.