Rep. Carolyn McCarthy roused a crowd of prominent Democrats Monday night by announcing that doctors have declared her free of the cancer she has fought for the past year.
"I just want to say that when people grumble about government spending, a lot of that money goes into medical research," to fight cancer, McCarthy (D-Mineola) said from a stage at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, where the Nassau Democratic Committee honored her at its annual spring fundraiser.
McCarthy, 70, who announced in January that she wouldn't seek a 10th term representing the county's 4th Congressional District, then told the 1,100 people in attendance that, in light of all the tributes, she would run again. "April Fool's," she added quickly, to laughter.
A series of top Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steve Israel, of Huntington, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, had celebrated McCarthy during an hour-plus ceremony.
"She came with the strength of a person who had felt pain," said Pelosi, alluding to the 1993 killing of McCarthy's husband and wounding of her son on the Long Island Rail Road. "And in the generosity of her spirit, she wanted to make sure that no other family felt that."
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was also scheduled to attend, but remained in Albany as lawmakers worked to approve the state budget. But he called in to pay tribute to McCarthy, calling her "a personal hero."
"She is all about principle and fighting the good fight and she is all about authenticity," said Cuomo, his voice played over the dining room speakers.
The fundraiser -- expected to be Nassau Democrats' biggest of the year -- would likely net more than $500,000, said party chairman Jay Jacobs.
Other state leaders in attendance included Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Speakers delivered the typical party rallying cries, but the main focus was McCarthy, who returned to Washington in February for the first time since she began a seven-month leave last year to undergo treatment for lung cancer.
Israel said that if Democrats reclaim the House majority, they will take up the gun control measures that have been McCarthy's signature causes.
"She may not be able to vote for those bills, but her name will be on every single one of them," Israel said.
McCarthy rose to national prominence by calling for weapons reforms after the LIRR massacre that, in total, killed six and wounded 19.
Since taking office in 1997, McCarthy, a former nurse, has continued to fight for that cause. Just days after returning from her medical leave this year, McCarthy gave a poignant valedictory pep talk to gun-control activists.
Monday night, McCarthy said that she would continue to push gun control, as well as education-based measures, in her remaining months in office.
"I never thought this day was ever going to be," McCarthy said of her pending retirement.