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Former Kansas City Congresswoman Karen McCarthy Dies At 63



Kansas City, Missouri – Representative Karen McCarthy has died in an Alzheimer's Unit in Johnson County.

McCarthy's family revealed last year the former legislator and Congresswoman was battling a rare form of Alzheimer's disease. The family also said McCarthy had suffered from bipolar disorder for many years, as well.

As a politician, McCarthy served in the state legislature in Jefferson City for almost 20 years, working on tax issues as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and on environmental, and health care questions. She was one of the class of early, powerful women politicians, and was once listed with Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice as possible first female presidents.

In 1994, McCarthy won the Congressional seat held by then-Congressman Alan Wheat, from the 5th district. For the next 10 years, she was a familiar face among constituents and in the community. She helped pass the innovative bi-state tax that allowed Missouri and Kansas to cooperate in the preservation of Union Station.

McCarthy fell on an escalator in a House office building in early 2003. She admitted she was an alcoholic and immediately sought treatment. When she returned a short time later, she hoped to run for re-election. There were rumors of financial mismanagement, however, and friends and colleagues urged her not to run.

Former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver was asked to run for the seat, which he did, but not until McCarthy had decided to leave Washington.

McCarthy was once married to Kansas City attorney Arthur Benson, but they were divorced. At her death she was single, and had no children.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions. Email me at lauraz@kcur.org and follow me on Twitter @laurazig.
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