NY1's live debate with the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate is just around the corner. One of those candidates is an Upper East Side mother who has vowed to stay in the race despite campaign missteps and personal attacks. As NY1’s Molly Kroon reports, K.T. McFarland isn't a woman who easily bows to pressure.
Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland runs her campaign out of her Park Avenue apartment. Despite her elegant trappings, McFarland says she's not out of touch.
“Everything I've done I've done myself. I’ve pulled myself up by my bootstraps,” she says.
McFarland grew up in Wisconsin and was the first in her family to go to college. She was a typist in the Nixon administration, became Henry Kissinger's aide, and eventually worked in the Pentagon under Ronald Reagan. She retired to raise five children.
“I’m a cold warrior. We did that one very well,” she says. “But now there's a war on terror, and somebody with my background, having served closely with three American presidents, if I can bring something to bear to the debate I think it's important to do so."
McFarland first threw her hat in the ring to challenge Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. But after former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro dropped out of the Republican primary for Senate, McFarland says, “There was no one who could offer a credible challenge to Hillary Clinton, a credible challenge on the substance of the issues."
Issues that she sees as her strengths. She's a pro-choice, fiscal conservative who's strong on national defense.
But her campaign's missteps have gotten far more attention than her position papers. She admitted that she didn't vote in several recent elections. Then McFarland claimed at a fundraiser that Clinton was using helicopters to spy on her. She says she was joking.
Despite her bumpy start, McFarland received enough votes at her party's state convention to get on the ballot, forcing a primary against former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer
She's been organizing "kitchen talks" around the state to connect with voters, but sticking to the issues has been elusive. Last June, a letter she wrote her father years ago surfaced, accusing him of physical and sexual abuse.
McFarland says rehashing her family problems in the press was painful.
“I have no interest in talking about it any further,” she says. “These were not issues I chose to bring up."
McFarland says she's trying to move away from the personal attacks that have defined the campaign so far.
“We want to focus on substance,” she says. “We think the issues are far too important to be continued to sort of slap around in the mud."
And in Wednesday's debate there is sure to be some mud slinging. It'll be McFarland's first debate for elected office, and she says while Spencer's personal life is now off the table, his record certainly is not.
- Molly Kroon
If you would like to attend the debate between KT McFarland and John Spencer at Pace University on August 9th, you can visit www.pace.edu
or call (212) 379-3443.
NY1 will air the debate live beginning at 7 p.m.