The Rookies: Nan Hayworth Makes Strong Push for Congress in New York

Nan Hayworth, ophthalmologist and Tea Party ally, runs for Congress.

October 11, 2010, 12:42 PM

Oct. 12, 2010 -- Nan Hayworth says she has spent her career helping New Yorkers see better. Now she's hoping they'll see her as their new representative in Congress.

Hayworth, the former head of an ophthalmology practice, is the Republican candidate in New York's 19th Congressional district north of New York City, running against incumbent Democrat John Hall. Hayworth may be one of the most unlikely candidates this fall, but she is clear about her highest-priority issue: repeal President Obama's health care reform law.

"Health care is the issue of the age, so to speak," she said in an interview with ABC News. "The law passed in March has proven to be unpopular across the country increasingly so and profoundly so in our district. We need more people in Congress with the expertise in understanding what patients need in America."

"It's quite clear that the people who wrote the bill -- not that anybody apparently read it -- they didn't fully understand those factors."

That's not all she wants to repeal -- the new Wall Street reform law should be done away with, too, she says.

"The best watchdog is the prudent and well-informed consumer," she says. "The numerous regulatory bodies that this bill will set up have not proven to be consistently effective."

Democrats in the White House and Congress, she argues, have hurt the economy -- not helped it -- with a series of actions ranging from federal bailouts to new regulations.

"If we were doing so well, unemployment would have improved since they started out and it clearly has not," Hayworth says.

"Their actions have certainly worked against enterprise, against business, and they have been especially punitive towards small businesses," she contends. "They're pro-government. They see central control as a good thing. I don't. I think it's a bad thing."

Reduce the size of government. Cut back federal spending. It's a familiar argument from Republican candidates trying to capitalize on a wave of anti-government sentiment in tough economic times. While Hayworth has not been endorsed by organizers of the Tea Party movement, she says she considers herself part of the "outcry for shrinking the size of the federal government."

Whether that will be enough for this political novice to unseat Hall in a traditionally Democratic district remains to be seen.

"It was easy to tell that she was smart and articulate, but wasn't the most politically savvy person -- that is, she wasn't steeped in politics. This was a whole new thing to her," says Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the "Rothenberg Political Report" newsletter. "The question always was how would she develop as a candidate because you need different skills to be a candidate than an ophthalmologist, but everything I'm getting is she's running a pretty good race, that the race has developed into a very competitive contest."

"The environment has helped her a lot," says Rothenberg. "It continues to give Republicans easy talking points about unemployment and change and the administration over-reaching on things. It's actually good not to have a long legislative record these days. It's good to be able to talk about health care and being a doctor, so I think she fits the cycle pretty well."

But victory won't come easy. Hall recently hit Hayworth with an ad arguing that she wants to privatize Social Security.

In a statement to ABC News, Hall's spokesman Patrick McGarrity says Hayworth "has repeatedly pledged this and has endorsed numerous, radical economic plans that call for privatization."

Hayworth denies the charge.

"It's a desperation tactic," she says, brushing it off as a non-issue. "I do not advocate for the privatization of Social Security."

The mother of two boys, Hayworth shows no signs of backing down. In a wide-ranging interview, she gives thoughtful answers to a broad array of questions.

While she touts on her website that "our Constitutional freedoms must be defended and protected," she strikes a conciliatory tone on a handful of recent issues dealing with the First Amendment.

On the Supreme Court case determining whether protests at military funerals are protected by the right to free speech, she says, "They're hideous and I'd like to see them stopped." On the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, she says, "It would be a gesture of true peace and reconciliation if Imam Rauf voluntarily moved the mosque to a different location or invited a synagogue or church to join them in that building."

With Election Day fast approaching, Hayworth sounds confident of victory. Asked if she's going to defeat Hall, she sounds like the most famous Tea Partier of all, Sarah Palin.

"You bet," she replies.

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