Drescher speaks about possible Senate run

Fran Drescher at her Malibu home last year during a shoot for Malibu Times Magazine. Drescher has "put a toe in the water" to possibly run for a 2010 Senate seat by talking to various media about her interest. Photo by Dana Fineman / TMT

The part-time Malibu resident says “high level senators” have encouraged her to run. The actress is familiar in lobbying Washington on healthcare bills, and now serves as a U.S. State Department public diplomacy envoy.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

While a media frenzy has erupted over the Senate’s refusal to seat the governor of Chicago’s appointment, Roland Burris, and Minnesota’s Al Franken’s confirmation is being held up by a challenge from his Republican opponent, actress Fran Drescher has used the media to test the waters for a U.S. Senate run representing New York. It is believed that Caroline Kennedy is the leading contender for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seat.

Recent television and magazine interviews have created much speculation over Drescher’s plans to run for the Senate seat. However, Drescher, who owns a home in Malibu, said Tuesday in an interview with The Malibu Times the publicity is a way of putting her “toe in the water” should she choose to run in 2010.

“I’ve been told by very high level U.S. senators that I should run for the Senate, and that I’d be great in the senate,” Drescher said. “And high level Democratic donors have encouraged me. So I thought OK, I’ll throw my hat in the ring and see where it lands.”

Drescher, a New York native who has a home in Malibu, said her decision to run for senator was “encouraged by people in high positions,” and that her appearances on television shows such as “Larry King Live” have allowed the public to get to know her in a different light and to hear what her views are on a variety of issues.

“They’ve [the public appearances] allowed people to learn that I am now a U.S. diplomat, that I speak globally to people as a representative of the U.S. State Department and that I successfully got a bill passed into a law and funded by Congress,” Drescher said.

Drescher was appointed by the U.S. State Department in September as an American public diplomacy envoy on women’s health issues, and travels the world to help educate people about early cancer detection. She has been to Romania, Hungary, Kosovo and Poland, visiting health clinics and organizations, universities and talking about women’s health issues, particularly breast cancer, through media in those countries.

Drescher has lobbied on behalf of many health issues, and her Web site, cancerschmancer.org, lists several health acts that she supports; she was instrumental in lobbying for the Gynecologic Cancers Education & Awareness Act of 2005, known as Johanna’s Law, named for Johanna Silver Gordon, who died from ovarian cancer in 2000. The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2007, HR 119, now updated to 2008, was passed by the House and is now with the Senate.

Jordan Brown, political advisor to Drescher, said of her, “She is about as authentic of a voice for new Yorkers as there is. She has overcome more obstacles in her life than anyone I’ve met and she has shown that she knows how to get things done in Washington. She’s a forceful advocate for improving the American healthcare system. She’s well liked and respected by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.”

Regarding her lobbying efforts, Drescher said, “I’m very vocal about civil liberties, children’s rights, violence against women, children and animals, and ecology issues. Education is a big platform of mine, and, of course, health issues.”

On education, she said, “I think we need to revamp our public education system seriously. If our elected officials think that education is expensive, they should take a moment and ponder what ignorance costs us.”

Perhaps most recognized for her role in the television show, “The Nanny,” and in films “The Beautician and The Beast” (1997) and “Jack” (1996), Drescher is also well known for her formation of Cancer Schmancer Movement, a nonprofit with the goal for all women to be able to have cancer detected in its first phase.

Drescher became afflicted with uterine cancer in 1997, but it took more than two years and eight doctors before she ever learned she had it. Fortunately, the disease was still in its first phase when it was finally discovered, and there was still time to do something about it. But Drescher later learned many women have not been so lucky, and thus formed the nonprofit.

In terms of her chances of becoming senator, Drescher said, “I don’t have a huge relationship with [New York] Gov. Paterson and because of that I probably don’t have a good chance of getting the appointment as some of the other contenders, but if it were an actual election, I think I’d have a great chance.”

Drescher said she has been approached by Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to grooming women for elected offices, to be a U.S. House of Representatives member; however, she said, “Having worked as a lobbyist for women’s health issues and an advocate and activist for children’s education, I find that I prefer the Senate because it’s a much smaller, more bipartisan group. That’s a large reason why I feel I would function better in that arena.”

If she is not elected senator, Drescher said there is always a possibility she could run for congresswoman.

“I’m out there fighting the good fight and trying to make a difference,” she said. “And that’s what is meaningful to me.”