New York: Fourth District|
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D)
Last Updated June 10, 2003
In the mid-20th century, Nassau County changed from almost entirely rural to almost entirely suburban. One of its first suburbs was Garden City, with its wide avenues and single-family homes, laid out more than a century ago by New York retailer A.T. Stewart at a time when reformers were urging that new communities retain the commercial vitality and social interaction of the city within a setting that preserved the healthful openness of the countryside. After World War II, freeways replaced strip highways and shopping centers sprang up at intersections, but many of the middle- and upper-income residents here continue to depend on the Long Island Railroad to get them to jobs in New York City. Garden City has maintained its high real estate prices and is now surrounded by some of Nassau County's key institutions: the county seat of Mineola; Hofstra University in Hempstead; Roosevelt Field, where Charles Lindbergh took off for Paris, now a suburban shopping center; and the Nassau Coliseum, home to hockey's New York Islanders.
The 4th Congressional District includes Garden City and the towns all around. It has several suburbs just north of the Jericho Turnpike--New Hyde Park, Mineola, Westbury--as well as a large swath of southern Nassau County east of the Queens County line, and west of the Meadowbrook and Wantagh State Parkways. This territory includes communities like Uniondale, Hempstead, Rockville Center and Valley Stream, as well as the "Five Towns"--the railway suburbs of Lawrence, Inwood, Cedarhurst, Hewlett and Woodmere. Nassau County has traditionally been Republican, and both Garden City and heavily Catholic East Meadow remain that way. But the Five Towns are heavily Democratic, and about one-third of the residents here are either black or Hispanic, in places like Elmont, a community near the Queens line with a significant Caribbean and Latin American population. The 4th District has voted mostly Republican in local and state races--Rick Lazio easily won here in his race for Senate--but the 4th gave Al Gore 59% 2000; the county legislature is now led by a narrow Democratic majority. In congressional races, the 4th District elected four different congressmen in 1990s.
The congresswoman from the 4th District is Carolyn McCarthy, elected as a Democrat in 1996. She was born in Brooklyn, trained as a nurse, married and raised a family on Long Island; originally, she was a Republican. In 1993 her husband was killed and her son seriously injured in the "Long Island Railroad Massacre," when a black gunman opened fire on passengers as the train crossed the Nassau County line (he said he did not want to kill anyone in New York City lest he embarrass Mayor David Dinkins). McCarthy spoke movingly at the killer's trial and her strength in tragedy won many admirers. "You took away my husband," she said directly to him. "You took away my best friend." She began campaigning for gun control, and in 1995 lobbied her Congressman Daniel Frisa to vote against repeal of the assault weapons ban, unsuccessfully. McCarthy inquired about running against Frisa in the primary, but Nassau County Republicans discouraged this. But Democrats had been eyeing the seat for some time and recruited her. McCarthy initially knew little about politics. When told that Minority Leader Dick Gephardt wanted to meet her, she reportedly asked, "Who's Dick Gephardt?" But she learned quickly. As the Democratic nominee, she called for gun control and attacked Frisa as too close to Newt Gingrich. The political tide was going her way: House Republicans were unpopular on Long Island. Frisa disappeared in the campaign's final week, did not show up at his election night party and never made a concession statement. McCarthy won 57%-41%.
In the House, McCarthy has compiled a moderately liberal voting record and sponsored gun control measures. She called for childproof locks on handguns, fines for parents if a child gets a handgun and shows it in public, and jail terms if a crime is committed with it. She beat John Murtha's amendment to allow import of World War II-era firearms and sought to ban the sale of guns to temporary visitors to the United States. When a TV movie of McCarthy's story was broadcast, the National Rifle Association said it was inaccurate; Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello said, "That's one hell of a campaign advertisement." But she declined a contract to write a book in time for the movie.
As she gained experience, McCarthy broadened her portfolio, using her experience as a mother and nurse to take an interest in education and health-care issues. She worked on HMO regulation with John Dingell, who had opposed her on some gun issues. She helped to reverse Medicare cutbacks for New York hospitals. She stood at the side of George W. Bush in August 2002 when he signed her bill to give incentives to hospitals in hiring more nurses and remedy the acute shortages. She worked hard and surprised people on some votes, opposing the partial-birth abortion ban and backing the use of force in Iraq. As the years passed, McCarthy also gained the expertise and patience to score modest gains in controlling guns. With support from the NRA, the House approved her bill to assist states to gain more access to the federal background check system for gun buyers. The sniper spree in the Washington D.C. area gave her the opportunity to gain voice-vote approval in the House of her bill--the Our Lady of Peace Act--to strengthen laws prohibiting the mentally ill from buying guns, again with NRA backing.
At home, Republicans have thrashed around to line up opposition. In 1998, Frisa ran early ads but withdrew from the race in July. Against 16-year Assemblyman Gregory Becker, McCarthy won 53%-47%, making her the first incumbent re-elected to this seat since 1990. In 2000 she beat him again 61%-39%. But she had a tougher time in 2002, after she failed to gain heavily Democratic Long Beach or to remove the Republican bastion of Garden City during redistricting. She was challenged by ophthalmologist Marilyn O'Grady, a first-time candidate who defeated Frisa in the primary; she took a hard line on terrorism and immigration, opposed abortions, and ran ads that attacked McCarthy for taking a 1998 contribution from Barbra Streisand. Although O'Grady received little national attention or party support, McCarthy's margin shrunk to 56%-43%. That result suggested that this district may be competitive if McCarthy retires, or perhaps sooner.
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202-225-5516; Fax: 202-225-5758; Web site: www.house.gov/carolynmccarthy
- Education & the Workforce (8th of 22 D): 21st Century Competitiveness; Employer-Employee Relations.
- Financial Services (24th of 32 D): Capital Markets, Insurance & Government Sponsored Enterprises; Financial Institutions & Consumer Credit.
|Group Ratings (More Info)|
|National Journal Ratings
For National Journal's complete 2002 Vote Ratings, as well as previous ratings dating back to 1995, please click here.|
Key Votes Of The 107th Congress
|1. Approve Bush Tax Cuts
|2. Limit Patients' Bill of Rights
|3. Campaign Finance Reform
|4. Ban ANWR Development
|5. Faith-Based Charities
|6. Bar Gays in the Boy Scouts
| 7. Ban Partial-Birth Abortion
| 8. Arm Commercial Pilots
| 9. Trade Promotion Authority
|10. Bar Funds for Intl. Court
|11. Authorize Force in Iraq
|12. Deny Home. Sec. Dept. Union
||Carolyn McCarthy (D-L-Ind-WF)
|Marilyn O'Grady (R-C-RTL)
||Carolyn McCarthy (D)
||Carolyn McCarthy (D-Ind-WF)
|Gregory R. Becker (R-C-RTL)
Prior winning percentages:
1998 (53%); 1996 (57%)
For 1992 and 1996 presidential results in the Fourth District, please see the Almanac 2000 online. Please note that these older returns reflect district lines as they existed prior to 2002 redistricting.
- Cook Partisan Voting Index: D +11
- District Size: 103 square miles
- Population in 2000: 654,360; 100.0% urban; 0.0% rural
- Median Household Income: $66,799; 6.4% are below the poverty line
- Occupation: 16.6% blue collar; 67.9% white collar; 15.5% gray collar; 9.9% military veterans
- Race/Ethnic Origin:
0.1% Amer. Indian,
1.6% Two+ races,
13.6% Hispanic origin
- Click here for statewide demographic data.
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