Congressional Run Starts Talk of Successor for Nassau D.A.

, New York Law Journal

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Kathleen Rice
Kathleen Rice

Kathleen Rice, who is just beginning her third term as Nassau County District Attorney, has announced she is running for Congress, setting the stage for a new top prosecutor in the county if she prevails.

Rice will run for the seat held by U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy, D-Mineola, who announced earlier this month that she would not seek reelection when her term expires at the end of 2014.

Rice's announcement on Wednesday night was widely-anticipated. The prosecutor, who took office in 2006, has gained national attention for her tough stance on drunk driving and reinvestigation of a notorious 1980s sex abuse case.

In a statement, Rice said she has spent her career "fighting in courtrooms for people who need advocates in the face of incredible injustice. These experiences have taught me that the people who need our help the most are almost always the first people forgotten by Washington when times get tough. They need an advocate. I want to be their congresswoman."

She added, "I'm not going to Congress to be a part of the good ole' boys club. I don't care about the politics. I care about the people we're leaving behind."

The district attorney was not available for comment Thursday.

Last fall, Rice, 48, cruised to re-election, beating Republican Howard Sturim by an approximately 18-point margin (NYLJ, Nov. 7, 2013). Part of Sturim's message was that Rice was looking past the district attorney's post for higher office. Rice rejected that claim. In 2010, she unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for state Attorney General. Eric Phillips, a Rice campaign spokesperson, said Rice's "first priority will always be running the office" and when her schedule allowed, she would campaign.

She has resigned from her post as one of the chairs of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption chairs. But she will continue in her role as president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York until her term ends in July.

If Rice is elected to Congress, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the authority to appoint an attorney to a one-year replacement role to run the office, which employs about 180 attorneys, 180 support staff and handles 30,000 arrests yearly.

The appointment would trigger special elections in November 2015. The victor of that election would serve a full four-year term.

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