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Democratic Rep. McCarthy Blasts Gillibrand Pick


As you heard, one New York Democrat has already said she'll challenge Kirsten Gillibrand for the Senate seat in 2010, and that's Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program.

Congresswoman CAROLYN MCCARTHY (New York): Thank you very much for having me on.

NORRIS: Why are you so strongly opposed to this appointment?

Congresswoman MCCARTHY: Well, number one, we are New Yorkers, and I do believe that having somebody that's going to be the NRA poster child is not the right way to send a message to the rest of the country. I certainly have been fighting against gun violence for 15 years, now and I think that we had many, many qualified people that could have taken this seat, and I'm very disappointed that the governor has picked her.

NORRIS: Well, pardon me for reaching into your history here, but you have long been a vigorous supporter of gun control. Your husband was killed and your son was terribly injured on a commuter train shooting back in 1993. This sounds like it's a very emotional issue for you.

Congresswoman MCCARTHY: It is an emotional issue, and I think that's where the politicians are having a very hard time understanding on why I'm doing what I'm doing right now. This is personal to me, and I think that, you know, when you look at New York State and you look at the work that I've been working with on - Mayor Bloomberg and certainly every other governor since Governor Cuomo trying to reduce gun violence - so to have someone that basically is a NRA poster child, I feel it's a slap not only in my face but certainly, the face of many victims here in New York and across the country. Now, my colleagues are from the Senate side, and now I'm getting calls from the leadership side saying that I should give her a chance. Well, I certainly will always give everybody a chance, and I certainly will be looking at every vote that she makes between now and a year from now.

NORRIS: Do you think that Kirsten Gillibrand would accept your characterization of her as an NRA poster child? She received praise from the podium at today's press briefing by Robert Gibbs at the White House.

Congresswoman MCCARTHY: Well, yes, absolutel,y and what do you expect for a politician to do? Of course, they were all going to say yes, she's going to be the next senator - she is the next senator from New York. The only one who's probably going to get hurt on this is certainly from me speaking out. Obviously, I have ticked off a number of senators, and now I've ticked off my own leadership and certainly, I'm sure Governor Paterson is not happy with me. But this is beyond politics. This is personal for me. I represent the voice for victims across this country, and I felt very strongly that my voice had to be heard on this issue.

NORRIS: I just want to reach into the future because you say that you plan to challenge her. Let's say this is 2010; what do you have to offer that she doesn't as a politician?

Congresswoman MCCARTHY: I have a lot to offer. I mean, people throughout New York know me to be an honest person. They see me fighting for the average person on a daily basis, and they see that I tell people how it is. If I'm wrong on a vote, I will come out and say hey, I made a mistake. I know that when I came into Congress, I have a plate here and in D.C. that says integrity. And I liked who I was when I came to Congress, and I'm going to like who I am when I leave Congress. I'm not your typical politician, I understand that, and that's OK with me. There are worse things that can happen to one's life than lose an election.

NORRIS: Congresswoman McCarthy, thank you very much for taking time to talk to us. All the best to you.

Congresswoman MCCARTHY: Thank you so much for having me.

NORRIS: That's Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, a Democrat. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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