Long Island Democrats came out in force Monday night for a dinner fundraiser at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury that paid tribute to Carolyn McCarthy, of Mineola, for her 17 years representing Nassau County in Congress. The gala’s guest list included Democratic notables from the region and beyond, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and it likely netted hundreds of thousands of dollars for the party.
McCarthy, who was diagnosed with lung cancer last June and announced this year that she will retire in January 2015, said in her thank-you speech at the evening’s end that she is now cancer-free following treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, generating resounding applause from the audience in Crest Hollow’s ballroom.
Then McCarthy announced that she had changed her mind and would run for re-election after all. “April fools,” McCarthy said after laughs and some gasps from the audience.
McCarthy used the majority of her speech to reflect on her political career, which began when she mounted public campaigns for greater gun control after Colin Ferguson shot and killed her husband, Dennis, and severely wounded her son, Kevin, in the December 1993 LIRR massacre. She was first elected to Congress in 1996 and has been re-elected eight times.
“I was never supposed to win my second election. God knows we weren’t supposed to win the first one,” McCarthy said, recounting the political wisdom she heard at the time. “And then the second one and the third one and the fourth one, and they just kept going on.”
She countered claims that opponents have often made that she is a one-issue congresswoman, saying that she is proud to have helped save lives from gun violence by pushing to get gun control legislation passed, as well as working to improve education and healthcare. She thanked her staff and her constituents for their years of support, and she extolled the virtue of toiling past hardship.