Pierre Rinfret; Economist, Cuomo Rival in N.Y.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Pierre Rinfret, 82, the economist and political neophyte whose 1990 defeat by Mario Cuomo was the worst in modern times for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York, died of heart-related problems June 29 at Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Massachusetts.
The Manhattan-based Mr. Rinfret, who agreed to become the GOP candidate for governor after party leaders failed to find any well-known and politically experienced Cuomo challenger, collected just 22 percent of the vote in 1990 as Cuomo easily won a third term. A Conservative Party challenger, Herbert London, captured 21 percent of the vote.
The Rinfret debacle led to a rebuilding of the state GOP by then-Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato and a top D'Amato aide, William Powers, who took over as state GOP chairman. In 1994, a then little-known Republican state senator, George E. Pataki, drove Cuomo from the governorship with the help of the D'Amato-Powers team.
Mr. Rinfret's campaign for governor quickly became something resembling comedic theater. He spent almost as much time criticizing state GOP leaders, many of whom had walked away from his candidacy after he balked at self-financing the effort, as he did attacking Cuomo, who largely ignored his Republican challenger.
Less than two months before the election, Mr. Rinfret was so upset with what he saw as a lack of support from the GOP that he threatened to quit and "go sailing." After losing badly to Cuomo, Mr. Rinfret said his days as a politician were at an end.
Pierre André Rinfret was born in Montreal, attended the University of Maine and received a master's degree in business administration from New York University. He received a Bronze Star as a U.S. soldier for his part in taking out an enemy machine-gun nest in France during World War II.
In 1951, he joined the New York investment firm of Lionel D. Edie and Co. and became a top executive. He later started his own firm, Rinfret-Boston Associates.
Over the years, he was an economic adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.
Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Ida Ceci Rinfret; two children; and three grandchildren.