Pressure is on Kate Murray to decide on Congress race

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray talks to

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray talks to editors at Newsday in Melville. (June 6, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile)

Joye Brown

Newsday columnist Joye Brown Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006.

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The pressure is on for Kate Murray, Hempstead's town supervisor, to decide whether she will run for the retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy's seat.

"I think she's formidable against anyone in that race," Rep. Peter King, a fellow Republican, said Wednesday.

King, who has been Long Island's sole Republican representative in Congress for 14 years, is so certain of Murray's potential that he's touted her qualifications for candidacy in Washington.

He is not alone. "We think that district is winnable for Republicans and that Kate would win," a local Republican official said Wednesday.

While Murray declined a request for an interview, King, of Seaford, said the candidacy was hers if she wanted it. "The national party is behind her, and it's willing to put money into her race," he said.

Murray, 51, has been wooed via telephone by National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon.

She's also received a call from Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a congresswoman from Washington state, who on Tuesday delivered the official GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union.

King, a former Nassau comptroller, who, like Murray, rose through the ranks of the county Republican Party, said he's had multiple conversations with her, too.

A decision to run by Murray would pit her against Kathleen Rice, a Democrat and Nassau district attorney, who announced her candidacy in an interview with Newsday Wednesday.

Murray was elected the first woman supervisor in the 369-year history of Hempstead, the nation's largest town, in 2003; Rice, 48, was elected the county's first woman district attorney in 2005.

A decision from Murray would have to come soon, since nominating petitions have to be completed in March for a June Republican primary.

What if Murray declines? King said he believed Anthony Santino, a Hempstead Town councilman who once worked for Republican Rep. Norman Lent of East Rockaway, would make a good candidate.

There are other prospects as well, according to local Republicans -- but none are attracting as much attention as Murray.

"Everybody in that district, which is 90 percent Hempstead, knows Kate," King said. "She's been vetted here and in Washington, and she would come out a winner." King believes Republicans have a good chance of gaining congressional seats in Nassau and Suffolk, where Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) is up for re-election this year.

"A few months are a lifetime in politics, but Obama Democrats are not doing so well now," King said. "The nation will be watching, because there are real opportunities here." He says he hopes Murray decides to jump in. "A Republican woman in Congress? From the Northeast? I don't think Kate realizes just how well she is positioned."

What the party needs now, however, is a decision.