Retiring Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey
On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, who serves as chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, announced that she would not seek a 17th term in New York’s reliably blue 17th Congressional District. Lowey, who will be 83 on Election Day, is the sixth House Democrat who is not seeking reelection this cycle, while 17 Republicans are heading to the exits.
Lowey got her start in politics back in 1974 when a friend approached her to help a “young and totally unknown lawyer, Mario Cuomo” run for lieutenant governor. Cuomo lost the Democratic primary, but he was appointed New York secretary of state the following year and soon hired Lowey. Cuomo was elected governor in 1982 while Lowey remained at the secretary of state’s office until 1987, when she resigned to run for Congress against GOP Rep. Joe DioGuardi in what was then numbered the 20th District.
DioGuardi (the father of future American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi) had twice won his Westchester County-based seat after nasty Democratic primaries, but Team Blue’s 1988 contest was a much more civil affair. Lowey ended up defeating Hamilton Fish V, the publisher of The Nation and a member of an influential local political family, 44-36 to claim the nod.
However, the general election was an expensive and negative contest. DioGuardi got some bad headlines in the fall when the local media reported that Crabtree Automotive, which was one of Westchester County’s largest car dealerships, might have illegally given $50,000 to his campaign. DioGuardi’s campaign also ran ads saying that Lowey’s campaign manager, Lisa Meyer, had been indicted, but they took down the spots after Meyer said she had only been called to testify before a grand jury.
Ultimately, Lowey pulled off a close 50-47 victory. DioGuardi sought a rematch in 1992 in what was now the 18th District, but Lowey defeated him 56-44. (DioGuardi would lose several House races in a neighboring seat over the following years, as well as the 2010 Senate race.)