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Spurred By Shooting, A Widow Declares For Congress

By Mary Ann McRae/CNN


MINEOLA, N.Y. (May 29) -- Carolyn McCarthy never imagined she'd be standing in her front yard, declaring herself a candidate for Congress (320K WAV sound).

For there was a time her life was seemingly simple. She was a wife, a mother, a nurse.

Colin Ferguson shattered that life on Dec. 7, 1993, when he boarded a Long Island Railroad train carrying a handgun. When the carnage was over, six people were dead and 19 lay wounded.

McCarthy's husband, Dennis, was one of those killed by Ferguson. Her son Kevin was gravely wounded.

[McCarthy at the Ferguson trial]

McCarthy addressed Ferguson at his sentencing in March 1995. "Colin Ferguson, I will give you no hatred," she said. "I will give you none of my rage." He is serving a life sentence for his shooting spree.

Over the past 2 1/2 years, McCarthy has spoken to Rotary Clubs, PTAs and school children, stating passionately that guns don't belong on the streets. But it took a recent vote by her opponent, Rep. Dan Frisa (R-N.Y) to push her into challenging him.

Frisa voted to repeal a ban on assault weapons. McCarthy is a life-long Republican in a predominantly Republican district. But the Nassau County GOP has already pledged its support to Frisa.

So, the 52-year-old widow will run on the Democratic ticket. There are no other Democrats in the race, so far.

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo has talked to McCarthy. "I told her it's going to be very hard," Cuomo said. "But you'll be terrific if you decide to do it. You're exactly what America wants."


Some say -- Frisa among them -- that McCarthy is a one-issue candidate. But a local attorney warns against underestimating the effect that the Ferguson shootings had on the community.

"It was such a traumatic event on such a large scale that nobody around here's really forgotten it," attorney John Klein said.

Frisa says he voted against the current assault weapons ban because it wasn't strong enough. He has since introduced what he calls tougher gun control legislation (96K WAV sound).

"I did the tough thing," Frisa said. "Stood up to get rid of a bad law, while she's still talking about supporting one that's really a lie because it doesn't do anything to protect us."

McCarthy has described herself as "an average person upset where this country is going and determined to make a difference."

She admits she's got a lot to learn. But she says that won't be a problem. She has her son, and the memory of her husband, on her side.

"Dennis always had great faith in me. He said I could do anything I could set out to do. He was always my number one cheerleader."

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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