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Pierre Rinfret, economist, reluctant candidate

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Pierre Rinfret, the economist and political neophyte whose 1990 defeat against Mario Cuomo was the worst in modern times for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York, died of heart-related problems June 29 on Nantucket. He was 82.

Mr. Rinfret and his wife of more than 57 years had lived on Nantucket since 1991, businessman Peter Alan Rinfret, his son, said yesterday. Mr. Rinfret had been briefly hospitalized at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, where he died, his son said.

Mr. Rinfret, who agreed to become the GOP candidate for governor after party leaders failed to find any well-known and politically experienced challenger to Cuomo, collected just 22 percent of the vote in 1990 as the Democratic easily won a third term. A Conservative Party challenger, Herbert London, captured 21 percent of the vote.

The election debacle led to a rebuilding of the state GOP by US Senator Alfonse D'Amato and William Powers, who took over as state GOP chairman. In 1994, a then little-known Republican state senator, George Pataki, drove Cuomo from the governorship.

Just before the 1994 election, Mr. Rinfret said that he was backing Cuomo's bid for a fourth term. Of his own candidacy, Mr. Rinfret said, ``I really never thought, from day one, that we could win. But I do believe in a civic responsibility."

Mr. Rinfret's campaign for governor 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 .

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.

``It was such a small part of his career," his son Peter said yesterday, noting that his father had been an adviser to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and had a successful business career. ``He was a very confident man."

The Canadian-born Mr. Rinfret studied electrical engineering at the University of Maine and had a master's degree in business administration from New York University. He won a Bronze Star as a US soldier in France during World War II.

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