By Sterling C. Beard - 10/01/12 09:00 AM EDT
The 2010 midterm elections may have been the year of the Tea Party, but freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) has never identified herself as a product of the movement.
During the first meeting she had with a Tea Party group — in January 2010 in southern New York’s Putnam County — Hayworth answered a question about global warming by explaining that evidence about global warming should be examined objectively.
She added it would be wise for people to reduce their carbon footprint in ways that made sense for them.
The answer was “greeted with consternation,” Hayworth said of the audience’s reaction.
Nevertheless, she says it was a genuine answer and not a pander.
The various Tea Party groups ultimately supported her campaign, but it took some time before they were fully behind her.
Hayworth says her centrist views are “harmonious” with those held by her constituents in the 19th, a classic swing district composed of several counties in southern New York.
Three Republicans and two Democrats have held the district in the last 20 years.
Hayworth is in a reelection fight against Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, a former White House staffer during the Clinton years. The Hill rates New York’s 19th district a toss-up.
“I’m not here to alienate. I’m here to draw people in,” said Hayworth, who the National Republican Congressional Committee designated a ‘Young Gun,’ signifying her status in 2010 as a political up and comer.
Hayworth’s earlier career as an ophthalmologist may have given her a keen eye for the long game, but she says it was her passion for learning and avocation in history that actually led her into politics.
“If you look at history, it is crucial to understand the context of policy as it was promulgated,” Hayworth, the only female physician in Congress, told The Hill.
The notion of context in policy extends to Hayworth’s views on the role of government.
She rejects arguments by liberals who point to the Great Depression and World War II as evidence that government spending and intervention can revitalize an economy.
“When we look at the burden of federal intervention or of taxation to pay for [intervention in the post World War II era] … we didn’t have the kind of competition globally, not nearly, that we do now. The rest of the world lay in ruins.,” she said.
“[President Roosevelt’s policies] led us into an even deeper depression. The War didn’t take us out of the Depression.”
The U.S. succeeded after the war not because of government spending, she said, but because the country emerged as the world’s “dominant economy, with demographics that favored a young, vigorous workforce, pent up demand.”
It’s a “completely different context [compared to] now.”
Born in Chicago, Hayworth was raised in the “classic, American small town” of Munster, Ind.
She grew up in a rural environment but was hardly isolated from the outside world.
She was glued to the television during the Watergate hearings. She devoured books like Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People and Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, the latter of which was given to her by her father when she was 16 and helped to fuel her interest in politics.
“It describes, in easily understandable terms … the cascade of negative consequences, adverse consequences, that follow — as night [does] the day — the intervention of government in the markets.”
Hayworth put herself through college and medical school by working summers in a steel mill in Munster.
She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and was top of her class from Cornell University Medical College, but never took a class in politics.
Instead, she started her own private medical practice in 1989, then seven years later joined Mount Kisco Medical Group.
Nine years after that, she quit practicing in order to spend more time with her sons. However, it wasn’t long before she found herself back in the professional ranks.
“During [the two years spent with my sons], they convinced me that they were sufficiently independent and/or desirous of being independent that my ministrations were neither appreciated nor applied, in most instances,” Hayworth said with a chuckle.
Hayworth was recruited to serve as the medical director in a communications company in 2007.
She began networking, traveling and speaking in gatherings, drawing on skills that she had honed in theater, speech and debate during high school.
A year later, she found herself becoming the resident voice of fiscal conservatism amongst her colleagues, often discussing her concerns about government overreach if Barack Obama won the presidency.
Her commentaries became, as she put it, “frequent and vivid.”
It all came to a head when Hayworth was standing with her husband in an elevator in Bonita Springs, Fla.
He turned to her and said, “maybe you should run for Congress.”
“It was one of those moments,” Hayworth said. “We walked in, saw my parents, [and said], ‘I’m thinking of running for Congress.’ ” Hayworth got a mixed reception when she floated the notion to family and friends. Some thought running for office was a great idea; others were concerned about the viciousness that politics entails. But there was enough encouragement that on April 15, 2009, Hayworth spoke with former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, whose parents had been her patients for a number of years. After a frank conversation detailing the ups and downs of a life in the political arena, Hayworth submitted her one-month notice that afternoon and dove into the campaign wholeheartedly. She compared the experience to “that moment in ‘Wall Street’ when [Bud Fox] finally gets to see Gekko, and adjusts his tie, and says, ‘Well, they say that life comes down to just a few moments — this is one of them.’ ”