Politics & Policy

O’Grady Vs. Schumer

A conservative runs for Senate.

“I believe the people of New York want to feel safe, and they want to preserve traditional values.”

That, in a sentence, is the Marilyn O’Grady for U.S. Senate campaign. Dr. O’Grady, an eye doctor, is the New York Conservative party’s candidate for U.S. Senate.

National Review has both ideological and sentimental reasons to be interested in a Conservative-party candidate running for Senate from New York. It was, of course, Jim Buckley, brother of NR founder William F. Buckley Jr., who last won one of N.Y.’s Senate seats on the Conservative-party line in 1970.

This year, Marilyn O’Grady is running against liberal incumbent Charles Schumer, a menace to fair-minded people across the country, never mind the state. Schumer has been among the Democratic obstacles to getting even votes on many of President Bush’s judicial nominees–forcing some of them to surrender, others to only be places on otherwise empty federal benches through recess appointments.

O’Grady has surprised many Senate-race watchers with her feisty style. One O’Grady commercial featured Schumer and Republican Senate candidate Howard Mills as two groomsmen on top of a wedding cake–making the point that they are liberal clones of one another. This summer, when Bruce Springsteen announced his concerts-for-Kerry effort, she hit the airwaves calling for a boycott of the Boss, giving her campaign some real media momentum. Now, hours before the election, the race for second place is up for grabs. An O’Grady second-place finish would send multiple messages–giving her party a jumpstart, better positioning O’Grady for a run against Hillary Clinton in 2006, and striking a blow to a notoriously un-conservative Republican party in the Empire State.

O’Grady talked with NRO’s Kathryn Lopez this weekend about the race, conservatism in New York, her future plans, and more.

National Review Online: You may very possibly come in second on Tuesday. If you beat Howard Mills, what will you credit that to?

Marilyn O’ Grady: I have stood firm in my core beliefs, and I have not watched the polls. One article sums it all up. After my debate at Cornell, an article in the Cornell Daily Sun called Schumer “heroic,” and I was called “villainous.” I wear an insult from a liberal as a badge of honor because it means that I got my point across. In contrast, Howard Mills, who is pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage was called “meh” in the same article. His lack of conservative values has turned off Republicans, while his liberal stances are not enough to attract Democrats. In short, he is a candidate without a position.

NRO: Why did you decide to interrupt your ophthalmology practice and life to run this race?

O’Grady: Edmund Burke said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. I have watched the Democrats push their agenda on the American public. They insist on abortion on demand, gay marriage, tax hikes, and a weakened defense. Win or lose, I know that I can say that I have done something to bring a traditional morality back into New York State politics. To me, that makes the “interruption” worth it.

NRO: What are the most important issues to you in this race?

O’Grady: Domestically, I believe that we need to preserve the sanctity of marriage, respect unborn life, protect our borders, make the tax cuts permanent, expand the tax cuts to grow the economy, offer people more options for private health insurance, and approve judges who will interpret and not make the law. Our foreign policy should work to make U.S. citizens safe, regardless of what France may think of us. We need to fight terrorism in the Middle East so that we aren’t fighting it in our cities. I believe the people of New York want to feel safe, and they want to preserve traditional values.

NRO: Illegal immigration. Abortion. Gay marriage. You haven’t picked popular N.Y. positions. Have you been at all surprised by your reception in this most blue state?

O’Grady: I have received a good deal of support, which does not surprise me. As I have campaigned, many people have told me that they are happy to hear a conservative voice in this election. I believe that many people support conservative values; they just keep to themselves. I have been humbled by the many e-mails offering me support and prayers. I consider it to be a great responsibility to speak for all those New Yorkers who do not want to see their value system trashed by Chuck Schumer and the Democratic party.

NRO: Do you think it’s easier to be a “pure” conservative running for office if you’re on a third-party line?

O’Grady: Well, I ran for Congress in 2002 on the Republican line, and I ran on the same issues I am running on now. In both races, I said what I believed and didn’t look at polls. Being a senator means being a leader, not a statistician. If I felt that I would need to compromise my core values, I wouldn’t run. So, for me, there is no difference. Marilyn O’Grady, Conservative candidate and Marilyn O’Grady Republican candidate are the same person with the same message.

NRO: You really hit a high note this summer when you called for a Boss Boycott. Where you surprised you got so much attention from that?

O’Grady: Yes, I was. I had hoped that it would bring some attention to the problem of celebrities believing that their status gives them the right to pontificate, but I never expected the media attention I would receive. We received e-mails from around the world. So many were supportive. People were tired of the cult of celebrity, especially since most celebrities live so isolated from everyday life. Some e-mails were nasty. As I said before, I wasn’t bothered by the rude ones. It means that I got my message out, and I struck a chord. What amazed me the most was how many people said that I didn’t have the right to criticize Springsteen because he has the right to free speech. What about my right to free speech? One woman e-mailed me that Springsteen has the right to free speech without consequences. I e-mailed her back that according to her logic, she would have to vote for me. If she didn’t vote for me, it was a consequence of my free speech, and that would make her a hypocrite. Her e-mail reply almost set my computer on fire, so I know I got my point across.

NRO: If you don’t win Tuesday, do you plan on running against Hillary in 2006?

O’Grady: When I debated Chuck Schumer, he was asked about his plans to run for governor in 2006, and he left his options open, so I will too. I have enjoyed this race. I enjoyed meeting so many people who share conservative values. I consider it an honor to be their standard-bearer and I would be pleased to do it again.


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