Q&A With Elizabeth Holtzman: Pioneering Former Rep. Wants To Help A Country ‘In Crisis’

by | Jul 14, 2022 | Politics

NEW YORK ― At age 80, former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.) boasts a career full of history-making accomplishments.A graduate of Harvard Law School who’d worked in the civil rights movement, she unseated a 50-year incumbent in 1972 at the age of 30, making her the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the time. She distinguished herself in Washington as an outspoken voice against government secrecy and overreach, voting to impeach President Richard Nixon while serving on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974.AdvertisementHoltzman was elected district attorney in Brooklyn in 1981, becoming New York City’s first female prosecutor. And in 1989, she became the city’s first woman ― and to this day, the only one ― to serve as comptroller.Holtzman has had her share of election losses as well, coming up short in a run for U.S. Senate in 1980 and in her bid for re-election as comptroller in 1993.Thanks in part to her experience holding Nixon accountable, however, Holtzman re-emerged in the national spotlight during the administration of former President Donald Trump. In 2018, she left the Department of Homeland Security’s advisory committee in protest of Trump’s policy of separating undocumented migrant parents from their children. Later that year, she published a book that attracted significant media attention, “The Case for Impeaching Trump.”But Holtzman, who enjoys kayaking with friends in her downtime, believes her work is still unfinished. The combination of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the Supreme Court’s revocation of a federal right to abortion have prompted the longtime resident of downtown Brooklyn to run in New York’s newly drawn 10th Congressional District.AdvertisementHoltzman is one of 13 candidates competing in the state’s Aug. 23 Democratic primary for a district that encompasses lower Manhattan and a cluster of neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn.HuffPost is running an interview series with the 10th District candidates. Check out our previous interviews with Carlina Rivera, Bill de Blasio, Yuh-Line Niou, Mondaire Jones, Jo Anne Simon and Dan Goldman.Over slices of zucchini bread at a downtown Brooklyn café, HuffPost asked Holtzman what a single member of Congress can actually do to defend democracy, which investigations she would prioritize, and how her legislative experience shapes her view of foreign policy, health care and the economy.This interview has been edited for clarity and length.Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters in 1973 about her lawsuit seeking to end the U.S. government’s bombing of Cambodia, which she argued was illegal.Bettmann/Getty ImagesWhen you first won in 1972, you were the youngest woman ever to win a seat in Congress. Now you would be the oldest first-term member of Congress. Why come back now to run?AdvertisementBecause the country is in crisis. We’re facing perhaps the biggest threat we’ve ever faced ― except for World War II, and maybe even more serious than that, because we have internal forces that are trying to destroy our democratic institutions. We have an extremist Supreme Court that wants to take us back to maybe even before the founding of our country. We have a former president who’s trying to destroy our electoral system around the country so that he can win no matter what the votes are, even though we’re supposed to be a democracy. …

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