Mario Cuomo Endorses John Kerry

Sen. John Kerry's (search) campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination was to pick up the endorsement Saturday of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (search), an icon with the party's liberal wing.

With liberals often dominating Democratic primaries in New York and elsewhere, the Cuomo endorsement was considered a major plum for the Kerry campaign.

On Tuesday, there is delegate voting in New York, California and eight other states — a showdown of sorts between Massachusetts' front-running Kerry and Sen. John Edwards (search) of North Carolina.

Cuomo is a particularly influential Democrat in the New York City region — he spent much of his life in Queens and now lives in Manhattan — where about 70 percent of the votes comes from in statewide New York Democratic primaries.

Independent polls have shown Kerry sporting a big lead over Edwards in New York.

Also endorsing Kerry was Andrew Cuomo (search), the former governor's elder son who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002. The younger Cuomo had served as President Clinton's housing secretary.

Meanwhile, a group of former Howard Dean (search) supporters gathered Saturday in front of a statue of George Washington in Manhattan's Union Square Park to throw their support behind Edwards.

"Howard Dean gave us hope. Now, John Edwards can help us fulfill our dream of taking this country back," said Alex Munoz, a moderate Republican who had helped lead the Dean effort in New York. "John Edwards has demonstrated a unique ability to appeal to independent voters. We are here to join forces and defeat George Bush."

Since Dean, a former Vermont governor, dropped out of the race, the competition for his supporters has been fierce. Dean himself has remained neutral.

On Friday, the Kerry camp announced the backing of numerous well-known former Dean supporters from New York, including U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, Major Owens of Brooklyn, Joseph Crowley of Queens and Maurice Hinchey of Ulster County.

On Saturday evening, Kerry was holding a town hall meeting in Brooklyn. Edwards was to be in the borough on Sunday afternoon for a rally. Brooklyn has more Democrats — more than 850,000 — than any county in the nation.

Kerry and Edwards, along with Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, were to meet Sunday morning in Manhattan for a televised debate, their last before the "Super Tuesday" voting. Following the debate, Kerry planned a town hall meeting in Buffalo while Edwards planned a late afternoon airport rally in Albany.