Harry the Horse and Hugh Carey

Photo from NFTA annual report. Original caption: “Governor Hugh L. Carey (left) is presented with a Transportation Center Ground-breaking Ceremony Shovel by William G. Gisel, NFTA Vice Chairman.”

We can’t let someone named “Harry the Horse” become Governor of New York. This is why Hugh Carey ran for Governor of that State. This isn’t the gospel truth, its just as amusing story but I heard Governor Carey tell this story to US Senator Bob Graham of Florida. Years ago I lived in Florida and was active in Democratic Party politics and fund raising. (Please don’t refer to it as the “Democrat Party” there is no such thing. It’s the “Democratic Party.”)

I was a banker in Florida for many years and as an avocation I raised money for various Democratic Party candidates, always on a pro bono basis. One of the Democrats I raised money for and got to know quite well was US Senator Bob Graham of Florida, now retired. (Not to be confused with retired US Senator Phil Gramm, Republican of Texas.)

Decades after he left politics in New York State, Governor Carey spent some of the winter months in South Florida and one day when I was with US Senator Graham we paid a call on him. Like most politicians, Governor Carey could tell a good story. US Senator Graham, who had previously been Governor of Florida, was discussing that with Governor Carey which prompted Carey to tell the following story:

A group of Democratic Party leaders from New York City, a portion of which Carey represented in the US Congress, came to him in some distress. Seemed that one of the main Democratic Party candidates for Governor was a local politician, first name of Harry, who was a nice, smart, and experienced politician. One problem. He enjoyed “playing the ponies” said Carey. That is, he spent a lot of time at the horse racetracks in New York City and I inferred that he wagered on the outcome of various horse races. This was all perfectly legal and above board. The only issue, as the Governor told us, was the man was known as “Harry the Horse” because of this hobby.

Democratic Party leaders from New York City told then Congressman Carey that they did not feel they could let someone nick-named “Harry the Horse” become Governor of New York and that Carey should run. After claiming that was the reason he ran for Governor of New York he gave a big laugh and we were laughing as well since he told the story in far funnier way than I am doing. Clearly that wasn’t the reason he ran but the story was very amusing. We didn’t spend long with him but he was very cordial and funny and the epitome of the old Irish New York politician. He was elected and served two very distinguished terms as Governor of the Empire State.

Carey died on 7 August 2011. From the New York Times:

Hugh L. Carey, the governor who helped rescue New York from the brink of financial collapse in the 1970s and tamed a culture of ever-growing spending, died Sunday at his summer home on Shelter Island, NY He was 92.

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[Image courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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