At a Glance
- Career History: Gun-control advocate (1994-1996); Nurse (1964-1993)
- Birthday: January 5, 1944
- Hometown: Mineola, N.Y.
- Alma Mater: Glen Cove Nursing School, L.P.N. 1964
- Spouse: Deceased
- Religion: Catholic
- Committees: House Education and Labor ; Financial Services
- DC Office: 2346 Rayburn House Office Building, 202-225-5516
Path to Power
Born in Brooklyn in 1944, McCarthy grew up in the same Long Island house where she would later raise her son. She was the second of five children; her father worked as a welder and a union leader, while her mother was a buyer for the Woolworth's department store. McCarthy excelled at sports but not at school. It was not until later in life that she learned she had dyslexia - a condition that explained many of her classroom struggles.
McCarthy decided she wanted to be a nurse in high school, when she sat for days by her boyfriend's bedside while he was treated for a serious - and ultimately fatal - injury suffered in a car accident. The day he died, she applied to nursing school, she recalled in a 1996 interview with Newsday. Politics was not part of her life in her adult years as a nurse and homemaker.
Although she was a registered Republican until her first run for Congress, McCarthy has evolved over the years into a reliable Democratic vote. She has voted with her party 98.1 percent of the time during the 111th Congress. McCarthy supports abortion rights and opposed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Her opposition to the death penalty came as a surprise to some, given the family tragedy she endured. When she drew criticism for her position, however, she said that she recognized that a majority of voters in her district supported the death penalty and that she would not seek to repeal it.
She has received high ratings from traditionally liberal groups, including labor unions, the League of Conservation Voters, and Americans for Democratic Action. She voted for a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in June 2009.
McCarthy works closely with a number of pro-gun control lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Senator Charles Schumer , several members of the New York House delegation, and GOP Reps. Michael Castle (Del.) and now-Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) She is naturally a staunch ally of leading gun control groups, including the Brady Campaign and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. And in recent years, she has partnered repeatedly with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) in his gun control efforts, launched through his nationwide coalitions, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, McCarthy endorsed home state Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination before backing Sen. Barack Obama in the general election.