Kuchinsky wanted someone more conservative, more anti-tax to replace then-Gov. Norm Bangerter so he championed Cook as an independent candidate.
That 1988 campaign failed. But at a recent meeting of the Salt Lake County GOP Central Committee, Kuchinsky and Cook, put their arms around each other's shoulders and joked, "We were Tea Party before Tea Party was cool."
Kuchinsky, 66, died early Friday after suffering a heart attack.
He was a longtime Republican activist who was proud to call himself "conservative" and "right wing." He spent his last evening working on a campaign for another anti-establishment candidate -- now a national trend dubbed the Tea Party movement -- Cherilyn Eagar, who hopes to unseat U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett.
When he came home Thursday night, "he was just really happy and just laughing because politics is in his blood," Kuchinsky's wife, Barbara, recalled. "He loved this country so much."
Richard Kuchinsky was born in Mineola, N.Y., on June 25, 1944. He worked in politics in New York and Washington, D.C. He met his wife at an LDS chapel in Queens, where he learned her name before being introduced so he could greet her for the first time with "Hi, Barb. How are you?"
She fell in love with his "beautiful," "gold" eyes and they married 42 years ago. They have two children and 10 grandchildren.
When the couple moved to Utah in 1979, Kuchinsky quickly became involved in the Republican Party here. He launched the Sandy Republican Club and an anti-tax-hike group dubbed the Tax Limitation Coalition. He served as chairman of the Salt Lake County GOP from 1991 to 1995.
Cook, who lost a second bid as an independent gubernatorial candidate in 1992, won a seat in Congress in 1996, representing Utah's 2nd District. Kuchinsky served on Cook's staff during his two terms.
"When I think of Rich Kuchinsky, I just think of the quintessential Republican activist," Cook said. "Every time I saw him, it was just politics, politics, politics."
Julie Dole, political coordinator for the Salt Lake County GOP, admired Kuchinsky's dedication.
She recently cleaned out the party's storage unit and found some memorabilia she shared with him: a snapshot of Kuchinsky with the late gun-rights activist and actor Charlton Heston and a signed photo of President George H.W. Bush.
The photos can join Kuchinsky's expansive collection of images, figurines and stuffed toys of his favorite animal: the elephant.