The Democratic candidate in New York’s 23rd Congressional District is addressing her use of cocaine and marijuana as a young adult in response to an inquiry from Capital Tonight.
Ithaca cyber-security expert Tracy Mitrano was a regular contributor to the Inside Higher Ed blog between July 2010 and September 2017. In at least two of her posts, Mitrano wrote about her past drug use.
She worked for Cornell University for roughly 15 years, most recently as Director of Internet Culture Policy and Law, and in December 2014 posted some observations about “Collegiate Youth Today.”
In the piece, she discussed trying drugs as a teenager when she worked at a public pool in Rochester.
“I smoked marijuana for the first time,” she wrote in 2014. “I never liked it very much, but on occasion, just to be social, I would try it again from time to time. Powder cocaine was more my thing. In my junior year of college I used it sometimes to help me concentrate on my studies (most people today would have prescription Concerta) until my supplier, a fellow student who drove twice a week to New Hampshire for more and who got addicted to the point of snorting it in a dining hall plastic glass with a straw, drove head on into another car killing himself and everyone else involved.”
Mitrano said she came to deplore drug trafficking, both because of the accident and because of the “destructive power” it represents for society.
“I have disclosed my own past because I do not want it said that I speak from a holier-than-thou platform when I say it saddens me very deeply to hear about the penetration of both illegal and legal drugs (used illegally) in our colleges and universities today,” she wrote.
In a separate post in April 2016, Mitrano expressed concerns about the pharmaceutical industry and the widespread prescription of pain pills. She wrote about her own experience with chronic pain as a result of a 10-hour neurosurgery, shying away from her prescribed oxycontin and ultimately disposing of the pills when her son reached his teenage years.
“Let it be know that I am no prude. Because ‘everyone was doing it,’ I tried marijuana when I was 15. I snorted powered (sp.) cocaine in college,” Mitrano wrote. “I drink more than the daily recommended allotment for women of one ounce of alcohol a day. But I am also deeply sickened by watching generation after generation of young people lost to drug abuse.”
The Democrat won a five-way primary for the right to challenge Republican Congressman Tom Reed by the narrowest of margins. Her closest competitor, Max Della Pia, held an unofficial lead at the end of election day but conceded last week after absentee ballots gave Mitrano the edge.
She appeared Monday on Capital Tonight to discuss her campaign, addressing a number of issues with host Liz Benjamin, drugs not among them. However, Mitrano released a statement through her campaign Tuesday about her past.
“As a seven-year blogger for a national higher education journal of record, I discussed numerous topics of public interest — including topics such as illegal drug use and trafficking that has had such a deleterious impact on the lives of many people,” she said. “I felt that my perspective could add to an understanding of the breadth of the problem we now face as one of the most serious in our country today.”
“One of my posts made reference to a time almost forty years ago, in the late 1970s when, as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, I experimented with cannabis and powder cocaine. The death of an acquaintance in a fatal car crash as a result of his drug use gave me insight into the personal and social perils of illegal drug use, and the severe adverse effects that the drug trade has had on individuals, families, and society in general in the United States."
She said she has seen three family members and friends die from drug overdoses more recently.
Mitrano maintains her criticisms of how drugs are handled in the United States and believes in the federal legalization and regulation of cannabis, federal funding for addiction treatment centers, vigorous law enforcement to confront the illegal drug trade, and governmental and private civil action against pharmaceutical companies.
The National Republican Congressional Committee suggested her platform of legalizing marijuana, and supervised heroin injection sites in particular, show questionable judgment when it comes to illegal drugs.
“Tracy Mitrano’s history of illegal drug abuse is troubling – but her proposal to bring heroin injection sites to the 23rd District is downright dangerous,” said NRCC spokesperson Chris Martin.
If elected, Mitrano would not be the first high-level politician to have admitted to cocaine use. The list includes former President Barack Obama (maybe) and former New York Governor David Paterson, while former President George W. Bush never overtly denied stories about his younger years that followed him for years.
Reed’s campaign also responded with a brief statement that “these are clearly concerning revelations.”