In a year when things political were often yawningly predictable or cynically manipulative, Carolyn McCarthy's triumph serves as an inspirational reminder that government really can be of, by and for the people. "My God, look where I am," says McCarthy, 52, still basking in the afterglow of her upset victory in the race for a Long Island, N.Y., congressional seat. "I can't help but smile when I walk into the Capitol." The happiness is hardwon. It was, after all, profound pain and anger compounded by betrayal that drove McCarthy—a nurse with no political experience—to seek office. After crazed gunman Colin Ferguson killed her husband, Dennis, 52, and five others and wounded 19, including her son Kevin, 29, in the 1993 massacre on a Long Island commuter train, she helped lobby Congress for a ban on assault weapons. But last March, House Republicans—including her own representative, Dan Frisa—tried to overturn the bill. So outraged was McCarthy that she decided to switch parties and run against Frisa. Putting in 16-hour days on the stump and poignantly canvassing commuters on the very line where her husband met his death, she won by a landslide. During the campaign, McCarthy had to endure Frisa's constant charge that she was a one-issue candidate. Now she's prepared to take on the multiple responsibilities of congressional life. "As a woman," she says, "I'm used to doing five things at one time." No one is more sure of that than Kevin, for whom she cared full-time after the bullet wound in his head left him unable to walk and talk for months. Kevin's recovery has been so remarkable, he can now care for himself. Jokes McCarthy: "I'm sure part of him is thrilled to see me shipped off to Washington." Perhaps, but a bigger part is deeply proud of his mother's accomplishment. "She's grown," says Kevin. "She was a very quiet person. But she turned out to be a leader."
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