Rep. Nita Lowey (D)
Elected: 1988, 11th term.
Born: July 5, 1937, Bronx .
Education: Mt. Holyoke Col., B.A. 1959.
Family: Married (Stephen); 3 children.
Professional Career: Asst. for Econ. Devel. & Neighborhood Preservation, NY Secy. of State; Dep. dir., Division of Econ. Opportunity, 1975–85; NY asst. secy. of st., 1985–87.
The congresswoman from the 18th District is Nita Lowey, a Democrat elected in 1988. She was born in the Bronx, and after graduating from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in marketing, she moved to Queens, where she became a homemaker raising three children. She first got involved in politics when her neighbor, Mario Cuomo, got Lowey to help out in his campaign for lieutenant governor. He lost that race but was appointed New York secretary of state and hired Lowey as his assistant in 1975. Cuomo later became New York governor. In the 1988 Democratic primary for the House seat, Lowey faced Hamilton Fish III, who was politically well connected but as a former publisher of the Nation was considerably to the left of Lowey. She won 44%-36%. In the general election, she challenged two-term Republican Rep. Joseph DioGuardi, who was dogged by charges of illicit contributions. She won 50%-47%. Each spent over $1 million, with Lowey spending $657,000 of her own money.
|Nita Lowey (D-WF)||174,791||(68%)||($1,489,302)|
|Jim Russell (R-C)||80,498||(32%)||($19,906)|
|Nita Lowey (D-WF)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%), 2004 (70%), 2002 (92%), 2000 (67%), 1998 (83%), 1996 (64%), 1994 (57%), 1992 (56%), 1990 (63%), 1988 (50%)
In the House, Lowey’s voting record is liberal, though she is more moderate on foreign policy. She has been a strong advocate of aid to Israel and voted for the 2002 Iraq war resolution.
She’s a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee and chairs its State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, which makes her one of the subcommittee chairmen known as the “cardinals” for their influence on spending decisions. In 2007, she opposed President George W. Bush’s call to increase troop strength in Iraq, but she backed his request for more money for military operations in Afghanistan. In that year’s appropriations bill, she set aside $5 billion for programs to combat HIV/AIDS around the world and increased by $300 million Bush’s $1.5 billion budget for global health and child survival. She strongly criticized the president’s opposition to allowing international health organizations to receive donated contraceptives to prevent disease and unintended pregnancies and to reduce abortions. In 2009, she secured $424 million for climate-change and clean-energy programs, and $538 million for educational and cultural exchanges to “strengthen America’s image abroad.” On Homeland Security, she worked to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and pursued a grant program for interoperable communications for local governments.
In the 1990s, Lowey was a Clinton loyalist when it was tough to be so, voting for the 1993 budget and tax package in this high-income district and splitting with most New York Democrats and organized labor to support both the North American Free Trade Agreement and normalizing trade relations with China. When Clinton proposed to change the health-care financing system, she organized 72 House members to demand that it cover abortions. Much of Lowey’s legislative work has been on the Appropriations Committee. On domestic issues, she has actively supported the National Endowment for the Arts; she has also been a big supporter of biomedical research and helped increase spending on cancer research at the National Institutes of Health. Pursuing her interest in feminist issues, she has backed funds for international family planning. In 2008, she won passage of a bill to authorize research centers to study environmental factors linked to breast cancer.
Since Lowey first won, the boundaries of her district have been radically altered twice by redistricting, but she has been re-elected by wide margins. She thought about a Senate bid in 2000, but deferred to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and in 2008, she was an enthusiastic supporter of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Her party loyalty and avid fundraising led Minority Leader Dick Gephardt to appoint her to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2002 election. Lowey optimistically said that Democrats would be able to capture a House majority, but it didn’t happen on her watch. Ultimately, Democrats defeated only three Republican incumbents and lost five of their own. The GOP’s six-seat gain was an acute disappointment to Lowey, who quietly bowed out of the chairmanship. In 2008, she was mentioned as a possible successor to Clinton in the Senate after Clinton became Secretary of State, but the plum went to Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.