New York: Eighteenth District|
Rep. Nita Lowey (D)
Last Updated July 14, 2003
The great granite ridges that form the spine of Manhattan and the Bronx move north into lower Westchester County, the thin peninsula of land between Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. This was active territory from early on. Washington Irving, the first fully professional writer in America, has his headless horseman chase schoolmaster Ichabod Crane through Sleepy Hollow, a fictionalized version of Tarrytown, on the east bank of the Hudson. Revolutionary War battles were fought here, and figures like John Peter Zenger, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay lived here. Blessed with some of America's loveliest scenery, and easily accessible to Manhattan by train since the mid-19th century, this became some of America's first suburban terrain, with grand estates built by great millionaires--Jay Gould's Gothic revival Lyndhurst and John D. Rockefeller's spectacular Kykuit, with villages for retainers clustered around the railroad stations. Today, Westchester still looks suburban, perhaps more than ever now that it has a nice patina of age. It has little commuter railroad stations across from faux Tudor drugstores, soda fountains and cobblestone post offices; it also has shopping malls and gallerias and plenty of corporate headquarters, from IBM and Texaco to PepsiCo and Reader's Digest (as well as corporate watchdogs: Consumer Reports magazine is based in Yonkers). Intensive development slows down north of White Plains, for just to the north Westchester is crossed by the first of several mountain ridges--the closest the Appalachians come to the ocean. The county does have its share of homeless people and racial ghettos, and it has seedier neighborhoods if not slums. But in recent years, the greatest anxiety here has been caused by corporate restructuring and downsizing at once invincible companies like IBM--trends that have disproportionately affected the Fortune 500 managers that reside here.
The 18th Congressional District contains the heart of suburban Westchester County and also crosses over the Hudson River into Rockland County. It includes a host of affluent suburbs, many within easy reach of Grand Central via the Metro North rail lines--Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Eastchester, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, White Plains, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye, Harrison, Armonk and Chappaqua, where Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton bought a house in 2000. It also includes Haverstraw across the Hudson in Rockland County. It also includes most of the Hudson River towns of Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and Tarrytown to the east. Historically, Westchester was a Republican county, with a successful Republican political machine and an electorate made up of affluent professionals who naturally preferred the party opposed to big city political bosses and labor union leaders. But Westchester today is mostly Democratic. One reason is that Jewish voters, long Democratic, became even more so in the 1990s thanks to the visibility of Christian conservatives in the Republican party. Another reason is that on the cultural issues of greatest import recently, gun control and abortion, affluent suburbanites in America's biggest metropolitan area have been strongly on the liberal side. Still another reason is that Westchester is by no means all-white: the 18th District is 10% black, 16% Hispanic and 5% Asian. George Pataki, who began his political career as mayor of Peekskill in northern Westchester, carried the county by handsome margins in 1998 and 2002. But the county gave strong support to Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996 and 2000 and, unlike the Long Island suburbs, voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000.
The congresswoman from the 18th District is Nita Lowey, a Democrat first elected in 1988. She was born in the Bronx, raised her family in Queens, and now lives in upper-crust Harrison in Westchester. She went to work for Mario Cuomo in 1975, after he was appointed secretary of state, and later became assistant secretary of state. In the 1988 primary, she faced Hamilton Fish III, son and grandson of Republican Hudson River congressmen, but as a former publisher of The Nation considerably to the left of Lowey; she won 44%-36%. Her opponent in the general was Joseph DioGuardi, a two-term incumbent who trumpeted his experience as a CPA but 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.
In the House, Lowey has a fairly solid liberal record. She was a Clinton loyalist when it was tough to be so, voting for the 1993 budget and tax package in this high-income district, splitting with most New York Democrats and organized labor to support both NAFTA and PNTR with China. When Clinton proposed to change the health care finance system, she organized 72 members, mostly Democrats, who demanded that it cover abortions. Much of Lowey's legislative work has been done on Appropriations, and much has been connected with feminist issues. She was a leading backer of funds for international family planning, and led the unsuccessful opposition to George W. Bush's reversal of the policy when he took office. She achieved a rare feminist victory in Congress by getting into the 1998 omnibus bill a provision requiring federal employee health plans that cover prescriptions to include contraceptives; the Appropriations Committee in 2001 turned back an attempt by the Bush administration to repeal the coverage. As the senior Democrat on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of Appropriations, she has been a strong advocate of aid to Israel. She also worked with chairman Jim Kolbe to increase funding for Afghanistan after the Taliban were routed. On other international issues, she voted for the Iraq war resolution and against trade promotion authority.
Lowey has actively supported the National Endowment for the Arts. When Republicans threatened to eliminate funding for the Public Broadcasting System, she scored points with an appearance by muppets Bert and Ernie to make their case at a congressional hearing. On local matters, she was a stalwart in 2001 in insisting that the White House deliver the full $20 billion that Congress appropriated for New York City.
Since Lowey first won, the boundaries of her district have been twice sharply changed by redistricting. She first won in an all-Westchester district similar to the current 18th. The 1992 redistricting removed much of Westchester and sent the district south through a narrow salient in the Bronx to include a large part of central Queens. This made the district more Democratic, but raised the specter of Queens-based primary opposition. In 2002 the Queens and Bronx portions were removed. Through all this Lowey has proved to be a prodigious fundraiser, never spending less than $878,000 on a campaign, and she has been reelected by wide margins. In November 1998, when Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced he would retire in 2000, Lowey was mentioned as one of several Democrats interested in the seat; several others dropped out and Lowey stayed in. When talk started that Hillary Rodham Clinton might run, Lowey said she would step aside and support her enthusiastically if she did; she kept her word.
Her party loyalty and avid fundraising led Minority Leader Dick Gephardt to appoint her chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in January 2001. With Patty Murray of Washington chairing its Senate Democratic counterpart, they were the first two women to head party campaign committees. This was the third time Gephardt had tried to convince her to take the job, and he agreed not to control DCCC operations as he had in the past. House Democrats were dispirited after failing to win control in 2000, and Lowey faced a difficult task. She advised candidates to cooperate closely with Democratic interest groups--environmental, abortion rights, civil rights--in addition to organized labor. In early 2002 she sounded optimistic and said that Democrats' recruiting efforts, their fundraising, their apparent success in preventing Republican gains in redistricting, and their attacks on Republicans for "privatizing" Social Security would enable the party to recapture the House.
By the fall prospects were not so rosy. In key states--including New York and California--the parties had agreed on bipartisan incumbent-protection redistricting plans, and that left a small number of competitive seats. Ultimately, Democrats defeated only three Republican incumbents, while losing five of their own. The DCCC raised $95 million, but House Republicans raised nearly twice as much, and in the weeks before the election Lowey had to twist the arms of Democratic members to get much needed funds. House Republicans' six-seat gain was an acute disappointment to Lowey, who quietly bowed out of the chairmanship: she, like Patrick Kennedy and Martin Frost before her, had failed to deliver a majority that seemed in close reach.
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202-225-6506; Fax: 202-225-0546; Web site: www.house.gov/lowey
845-639-3485; White Plains, 914-428-1707; Yonkers, 914-779-9766.
|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
||Nita Lowey (D-WF)
|Michael Reynolds (RTL)
||Nita Lowey (D)
||Nita Lowey (D)
|John G. Vonglis (R-C)
Prior winning percentages:
1998 (83%); 1996 (64%); 1994 (57%); 1992 (56%); 1990 (63%); 1988 (50%)
For 1992 and 1996 presidential results in the Eighteenth 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 +10
- District Size: 270 square miles
- Population in 2000: 654,360; 99.3% urban; 0.7% rural
- Median Household Income: $68,887; 7.8% are below the poverty line
- Occupation: 12.8% blue collar; 73.2% white collar; 13.9% gray collar; 9.2% military veterans
- Race/Ethnic Origin:
0.1% Amer. Indian,
1.6% Two+ races,
16.2% Hispanic origin
- Click here for statewide demographic data.
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