McCarthy: Back surgery deterred me from Senate race

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Rep. Carolyn McCarthy said Thursday she's planning to undergo back surgery next week - and that the lengthy recovery period was the "real reason" she decided not to run for the U.S. Senate.

Last month, McCarthy, 65, the Democrat from Mineola, said she wouldn't challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in next year's party primary for "personal reasons."

Thursday, she said her impending back surgery, which will require her to wear a brace for six to eight months, drove her decision to bow out of consideration for the Senate. Her aching back has forced her in recent weeks to rely on a cane.

"I knew that I would have to have the surgery and that I couldn't travel throughout the state" while recuperating, said McCarthy, who will miss the last two weeks of the current congressional session.

Earlier this year, McCarthy, a strong gun-control proponent, expressed dismay about Gillibrand's position on the issue; she indicated she might jump into the race if other Democratic challengers didn't run.

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U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy / Newsday( May 12, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

But McCarthy said the pain in her fourth and fifth vertebrae, which began more than a year ago, made her realize she couldn't run a vigorous Senate campaign even if she wanted to.

She said she will undergo surgery Tuesday morning in Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, with the same surgeon who operated on her son. Kevin McCarthy was severely wounded in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road attack by a gunman who killed six people, including McCarthy's husband, Dennis.

First elected to Congress in 1997, McCarthy said she expects to return in September when Congress reconvenes after its summer recess. She said Gillibrand has "modified" her position on guns, but that she hasn't made any plans so far about whom she might endorse in next year's Senate race.

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