Whatever happened to ... ‘92 congressional candidate Cathey Steinberg

It had already been one of the longest and most excruciating nights of her life.

Now Cathey Steinberg was being awakened at 5 a.m. by a phone call from a reporter seeking her comments about the most recent development in the 4th District congressional race.

"I didn't even know what they were talking about," Steinberg said recently, recalling the Nov. 3, 1992, election.

When Steinberg finally went to sleep at 3 a.m., the returns were still tricking in, and it looked like she was a sure loser. But when she got the wake-up call, she was informed the race was now too close to call.

Steinberg, a liberal Democrat and former state lawmaker, was seeking to win a district encompassing north-central DeKalb County, eastern Gwinnett County, all of Rockdale County and the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta. It was a conservative-leaning district, but 1992 had been dubbed the "Year of the Woman" because so many women signed up to run for Congress and contributions poured in to finance her campaign.

When the final votes were counted, Republican John Linder edged Steinberg by 2,576 votes out of more than 250,000 cast. Steinberg finally called him to concede at 1:30 p.m. on the day after the election.

With Linder, who was re-elected eight times, stepping down from Congress at the end of this year, Steinberg has been reflecting on what might have been.

"It would have been exciting to go to Congress," she said recently over mixed vegetables at a Thai restaurant down the street from her home. "But now I believe it wouldn't have been a good fit for me."

Steinberg said she would not have flinched when asked to vote for some of then-President Bill Clinton's budget proposals, which made a number of her Democratic colleagues unpopular back home. The district turned even more conservative in 1994. If she won in 1992, Steinberg said, she might not have won re-election.

In 1999, then-Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Steinberg to be the new insurance consumer advocate, a post she held until Barnes lost re-election. Steinberg said she was surprised and disappointed when Gov. Sonny Perdue quickly dismissed her after he took office. Steinberg noted she and Perdue worked together in the state Senate as Democrats before Perdue changed political parties.

"I learned one thing: If you change parties, you can't be friendly," she said. "But I loved the consumer advocate job. We did a lot of good and received calls from all over the state."

Since leaving state government, Steinberg had to overcome the death of her father, Stanley Weiss, a retired shoe salesman who tirelessly campaigned for her, as well as the passing of a close friend she had known since childhood.

"It changed me a lot," she said. "I told myself I needed to take a break. I needed to make more time with my family."

She continues to live in a three-story stucco home near the Emory University campus with her husband, Irwin, a retired lawyer. In recent years, Steinberg has spent time with her grandchildren and traveled the globe, seeing India, Greece, Israel, the Galapagos Islands and Africa.

When asked if she missed politics, Steinberg said she misses having the access that comes with being an elected official.

"But I don't miss the campaigning, even though I was good at it," she said. "I don't miss going to meetings five nights a week. I like having some control of my life back."