Former Reagan Official Eyes Clinton's Senate Seat

Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland was a Pentagon spokeswoman during the Reagan administration and an adviser to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during the Nixon administration.

She took a sabbatical from politics for 20 years to raise her five children, but is now back in the limelight announcing that she would like to challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., for her seat.

McFarland, an abortion-rights advocate and moderate Republican, raised $430,000 for the run she was contemplating against Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. A grandmother of three, she first thought about running for office after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Republicans have long been searching for a formidable opponent to challenge Clinton. They initially put up Jeanine Pirro, the district attorney of New York's Westchester County, but she soon dropped out of the race on the advice of the party.

"I'm running for myself, my family, the people of New York," said McFarland who is positioning herself as a tough security mom. "For me, it's personal."

Her husband works above Grand Central Station and would be at risk if terrorists attacked the subways. Her young granddaughter, who lives in Manhattan, would be in danger if the Port of Newark was attacked. Her daughter Fiona is a sophomore at the Naval Academy and wants to become a Marine helicopter pilot.

"Shame on me if I don't get involved," she said.

"We have to do what we can to make sure there's a good outcome to the war," McFarland said. "I'm more encouraged in the last six months. The successful elections, more people vote in Baghdad than vote in Boston. The military strategy has changed. The Iraqi forces are getting better and taking over more American roles. As for [Osama] bin Laden, he's no longer running al Qaeda."

Nevertheless, McFarland said that the United States must remain vigilant. "The way Homeland Security distributes funding needs to be changed," she said.

Her opponent in the Republican primary, Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, said that "she'll depress the base. She'll hurt Republican turnout and, frankly, I think her candidacy is silly."

The White House has yet to endorse a Clinton opponent, even though Clinton charged that the president's top adviser, Karl Rove, was obsessed with her.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that Clinton had a 52-percent favorable rating, a 46-percent unfavorable rating, and a 33-percent "strongly unfavorable" rating across the country. McFarland said "polls are polls." She is running to improve the "health and the future of a democratic government."

Some critics say that McFarland has been out of the game for too long.

"The implied criticism is insulting to all stay-at-home moms who go back into the work force," she said. "I think the money will be there. This is a long process. I'm the underdog, but so was Bill Clinton when he ran for president. Nobody thought Ronald Reagan could win. … I'm not running for some larger political agenda, for Karl Rove or anybody else. I have the experience to win from my years in the White House, and that will be a central part of my candidacy."

McFarland said she refused to engage in mudslinging tactics when campaigning against Clinton.

"I'm disgusted with the extreme partisanship that has taken over our national political debate," she said. "Any issue, no matter how minor, seems to have people screaming at each other, throwing mud, calling each other names. Ronald Reagan might have disagreed with [former Speaker of the House] Tip O'Neill on a number of issues, but at the end of the day they put it away and joined hands."