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Cuomo on Left, Reed on Right Agreeably Disagree for Charity

May 09, 1998|VALERIE BURGHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

By any account, Ralph Reed and Mario Cuomo make an odd couple.

Reed, Christian Coalition founder and conservative political strategist, became the face of the family values movement in the past decade. And Cuomo, former Democratic governor of New York, came to the public's attention for his liberal social stances and opposition to the death penalty.

But they shared the stage Friday at a fund-raiser in Irvine for a local mentoring program.

Speaking to 250 charity donors in Republican territory, Reed said of Cuomo: "Now he knows how it feels for me to be at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I'm really glad to be in Orange County today."

For his part, Cuomo acknowledged the political bent of the crowd. "I want to thank the woman who came up to me earlier and said, 'How marvelously courageous of you to come here today,' " Cuomo said. "It was a little off-putting," he acknowledged, but appropriate.

Debating issues ranging from campaign finance reform to race relations, the two national figures were the main attraction at Angelitos de Oro's 37th annual fund-raiser. Angelitos, a volunteer organization that supports the nonprofit Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County, presented $140,000 to the youth program.

In Reed's comments, he referred to the burning of Southern churches as a clear indication that vestiges of racism linger. He also criticized President Clinton's widely publicized conversations on race as being insufficient.

"President Clinton has introduced an Oprah presidency," he said of Clinton's panels. "It's politics as therapy."

Citing the backlog of cases at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he proposed more funding for the federal agency.

In response, Cuomo said he instituted his own form of affirmative action long ago, appointing qualified African Americans and Latinos to state offices when he was governor.

"If it's between a man and a woman, I'll take the woman," he said. "If she's black, . . . even better."

Cuomo did have praise for at least one Republican--tobacco bill author Sen. John McCain of Arizona: "I wish he would run as a candidate as a Republican for president."

Reed offered some advice to his fellow conservatives: to change the way they communicate their values. Ronald Reagan succeeded in doing so, he said, whereas presidential candidate Barry Goldwater 16 years earlier did not.

"Goldwater said it with a frown," Reed said, but "Reagan said it with a smile."

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