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Cuomo Moves to Close Door on Draft

April 9, 1988

Undated (AP) _ New York Gov. Mario Cuomo moved Saturday to close the door on a draft for the Democratic presidential nomination, while in his home state Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson campaigned for next week’s primary in hopes of breaking the logjam in the race to the convention.

Cuomo said he did not ″want any confusing signals to be sent to anyone,″ but may have done just that: Moments after he said he ″ruled out″ accepting a draft, an aide denied that that was what the governor meant.

Cuomo’s presence has loomed over the campaign for the April 19 presidential primary in New York, where the 255 delegates at stake could have a crucial impact on the overall race for the Democratic nomination. Dukakis and Jackson currently are separated by a relative handful of delegates.

Cuomo said last year that he did not want to run for president in 1988, but he has been mentioned time and again as a possible draft candidate if the party becomes deadlocked over a nominee.

Cuomo told a news conference Saturday in Albany, N.Y., that a ″draft is counterproductive and unwise,″ but when pressed by reporters to say whether he would refuse one, Cuomo - as he has done in the past - complained about the ″insistence for magic language.″

He later telephoned The Associated Press to clarify his remarks at the news conference and again was asked specifically whether he would rule out accepting a draft.

Cuomo replied: ″I’ve ruled it out″ and went on to point out that he had done so in a letter to Democratic Party Chairman Paul Kirk.

Moments after the story on Cuomo’s statement was transmitted, his press secretary, Gary Fryer, denied that the governor had intended to say he would refuse a draft but meant instead that a draft should not take place.

Dukakis, meanwhile, made a brief side trip from New York to Pennsylvania, where he told people at a union parade that he would press for a national law setting strict requirements for companies wanting to close their plants.

″I know what you’ve been going through here in the Mon (Monongahela) Valley,″ Dukakis said in California, Pa., which has seen thousands of jobs lost in the last 10 years as nearby steel mills and coal mines have closed down or laid off employees.

″I’m not just a talker, I’m a doer. I know what it’s like to work with communities like this one,″ Dukakis said. ″I know what it takes to bring them back.″

Asked if that was meant as criticism of Jackson, Dukakis said: ″No, it’s a statement of fact about the strengths I bring to this campaign.″

Jackson campaigned Saturday in Brooklyn, where he drew large crowds and at one point was greeted by steel drum music of a calypso band as he arrived to speak at an Episcopalian church.

Jackson, when asked about criticism leveled against him by New York Mayor Ed Koch over his postitions on the Middle East, said, ″In my campaign I want to keep working on healing people. ... We’re already in a very tender situation and responsible leadership must move to heal people and not to extend their fears.″

Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr. stayed in Washington Saturday and planned to resume campaigning in New York on Sunday.

While the Democrats struggled for their nomination, Vice President George Bush cruised across the South Saturday on Air Force Two attending Republican fund-raisers in Texas and Florida.

While his campaign approached the legal limit for raising money and was not starved for cash, Bush longed for some of the attention that has gone elsewhere since he secured a virtual lock on the GOP nomination.

″I’ve got to look more frantic,″ the vice president joked. ″You pick up the papers and it’s all the three (Democratic) campaigns there. ... And we’re finished.″

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