The late family patriarch, Frank Becker, represented the 4th Congressional District from 1950 to 1962.
Now, for the third time in 14 years, a Becker is looking to challenge Rep. Carolyn McCarthy for the same seat this fall. This time, it's Nassau Legis. Francis X. Becker Jr., a charter member of that body since its founding in 1996, who is taking on McCarthy. A former nurse, McCarthy first won office the same year as Becker on a gun control issue after her husband was killed and her son wounded in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre.
Becker's brother, Gregory, a 16-year assemblyman, came close to unseating McCarthy in her first re-election bid in 1998, getting 47 percent of the vote. Two years later, he did not come nearly as close.
The lawmaker, 57, acknowledged his brother had jokingly asked him if he was "crazy" to take on McCarthy. But he said he has the backing of his entire family, including his father, the former village mayor.
Becker, who now lives in his grandfather's - the late congressman's - house, said, "Destiny may be too strong a word, but a greater power in heaven may be encouraging me."
Becker said McCarthy was "a media star" when first elected, but now has "shown her true colors as just another liberal who votes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 90 percent of the time." Her sole issue is gun control, when it should be jobs, he said. Voters, he said, are fearful that government spending is piling up huge debt and stalling an economic rebound. "The American dream is being crushed," he said.
As a certified financial planner, Becker said he can help put the country back on track. He also claims McCarthy has been "tepid" in her support of Israel, a charge McCarthy rejects.
McCarthy said Becker's rhetoric parrots every GOP challenger nationwide, who all omit that most of the fiscal woes originated with George W. Bush. McCarthy added she does not want to repeat past mistakes where slashed spending deepened the Great Depression. "I'm working as hard as I can to make sure my constituents are taken care of and we bring financial stability back," she said. "I haven't changed over the years. I consider myself an average citizen who has . . . come to Congress as a nurse to take care of people."
She said she has not only pushed gun measures, but bills aimed at obesity education and national service and even local issues such as $500,000 for Rockville Centre's downtown.
Joseph Mondello, Nassau GOP chairman, said the public mood makes the race tougher for McCarthy. "People are very concerned about high taxes and massive new taxes coming out of Washington," he said. "And Fran Becker . . . is someone . . . very careful about the purse strings."
But Democrats say Becker has been a "lockstep Republican," dating back to when former GOP County Executive Thomas Gulotta let the county sink into a fiscal abyss. "Everything Fran Becker has gotten is what Joe Mondello has given him," said Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman. If Becker were elected, he added, "Joe Mondello would . . . in effect be your congressman." Jacobs also labeled "offensive" Becker's calling McCarthy a "media star," noting tragedy put her in a spotlight.
Becker's bid may be even tougher than his brother's 2000 race. The district where Republicans once had a 38,000-voter edge now has 31,000 more Democratic voters. And so far, Becker said he has raised little beyond the $50,000 he's loaned his campaign. McCarthy has raised $897,000, with $544,600 on hand.
Then too, Becker himself is facing a GOP primary challenge from former congressional aide Frank Scaturro of New Hyde Park, who has raised $268,000 including a $62,000 loan to himself. He has $183,700 on hand.