, New York , United States
|| February 01, 1924
|Died||June 29, 2006
Feb 16, 2008 02:41am
Pro-Capital Punishment - Pro-Choice -
|Info||Pierre Rinfret, who died June 29 at 82, was the political novice who agreed to become the Republican standard-bearer against Mario Cuomo in 1990. It was said that he was chosen after 19 other potential candidates refused to run, and that his name was chosen almost at random, from some politico's rolodex. |
The ensuing election was among the messiest, and in some ways funniest, in New York history, beginning with Republican in-house newsletters that insisted on spelling Rinfret's name phonetically (rin-FRAY) for party regulars who had never heard of him. Pronouncing his name correctly turned out to be one of the party's few respectful gestures to its candidate.
Party leaders and Rinfret regularly traded barbs about financing, with the party accusing Rinfret of failing to raise the $10 million he had pledged to raise, or to spend a promised $250,000 of his own money. Rinfret accused the party of failing to support him. He called Republican officials "idiots," and they countered by labeling him "a brainless wonder." As for policy initiatives, Rinfret proposed to fight crime in New York City by giving weapons to vigilantes, and to save the subway system by selling it to private firms, which may not have been as crazy a notion as it was said to be at the time. At one point, a couple of weeks before Election Day, Rinfret threatened to drop out altogether and go yachting, because he found the pace too hectic.
Meanwhile, his name recognition in New York was so low that, six weeks before Election Day, a peripatetic reporter found that "he is still most commonly thought of not as a political neophyte, not as a maverick underdog, but as a French artist."
Mr. Cuomo went on to win the election by a commanding 53-23% margin. But the fractious field included a separate Conservative Party candidate nipping at Rinfret's heels who garnered 22% of the vote. The combined Conservative and Republican votes would have made the race closer, a fact not lost on political professionals, who fielded George Pataki as a winning unified candidate in the subsequent election.
For Rinfret, it was a suitably quixotic culmination to a maverick career that had seen him make millions in finance as a mutual fund manager and economic prognosticator. In 1970, by which time he had been an economic adviser to presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Time Magazine described Rinfret thus: "Take two parts of insight and three parts of gall. Combine with chunks of meaty research, season with flammable forecasts and serve sizzling on a sharpened verbal skewer." One year later, though, he wrote a public statement in the Wall Street Journal in which he admitted "I was wrong" in declaring that in 1970 "there ain't gonna be no recession." It was a mark of his influence that readers cared.