Originally published Jan. 8 at 2:04 p.m.
After nearly two decades in the United States Congress, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-Mineola, announced Wednesday that she will not seek another term.
Born in Brooklyn, the 70-year old Congresswoman had recently been undergoing treatment for lung cancer and cited ongoing health issues as one of the driving factors for her decision.
“I have decided not to seek re-election to the United States Congress in 2014,” McCarthy said in a statement. “I am forever grateful to my constituents for giving me the privilege of representing them in Congress for the past 18 years. As I plan for the next chapter of my life, I look forward to resuming my role as a citizen activist for the causes and principles that are so close to my heart.”
McCarthy initially came to prominence in the public arena as a gun control advocate following the shooting at the Merrillon Avenue Long Island Rail Road station in December 1993 that took the lives of six people, including her husband, Dennis, and severely wounded 19, including her son, Kevin.
Following a vote by then-Rep. Dan Frisa, a Republican, to repeal an assault weapons ban, McCarthy switched parties, entering the political area as a Democratic candidate, even though she was still registered as a GOP voter, winning by 57 to 40 percent. She has maintained her seat as the representative for the Fourth Congressional district ever since, defeating Republican challengers by wide margins. Most recent challengers included two runs from Nassau County legislator Francis X. Becker and Frank Scaturro in 2010 and 2012 and current NY State Sen. Jack Martins in 2008.
Though McCarthy worked as a nurse and campaigned on platforms for healthcare and education, McCarthy is often cited for her work in the field of gun control. She has said that her work on the National Instant Background Check Improvements Act of 2007, signed into law under President George W. Bush, was one of her biggest achievements. Developed in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, the law closes loopholes that had previously allowed the mentally ill to purchase and procure weapons.
“I am very proud of the many accomplishments my colleagues and I have achieved, and am grateful to my family, my staff and all the countless volunteers and supporters with whom I have worked during my time in office,” McCarthy said. “The most important goal for any elected official is to help make residents’ lives better than they were, and as I enter my last year in office, I hope that together we continue to achieve that goal.”
Other Long Island representatives on both sides of the aisle were quick to react to McCarthy’s announcement.
“Carolyn McCarthy is not only a colleague, but also a dear friend and fellow Long Islander,” Rep. Steve Israel, D-Huntington, said in a statement. “Carolyn leaves a legacy of standing up for Long Island families, advocating for the safety of our children and fighting for critical gun safety legislation. She will be deeply missed.”
"Despite our political differences we always stood together for what was good for New York and good for Long Island," reacted Rep. Peter King, R-Seaford. "Carolyn McCarthy was a hard-working, conscientious member of Congress and a good friend. I commend her for her service. I wish her much good luck and I wish her nothing but good health in the future."
McCarthy has not endorsed any successor for her Congressional seat but has said that she plans to continue her activism for gun control when she leaves Capitol Hill.