Bucking a trend of local Democratic defeats, incumbent Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice Tuesday night racked up a resounding re-election victory over former prosecutor and Republican challenger Joy Watson.
"I'm incredibly humbled and honored to be returned for another four years as your district attorney," Rice told a crowd in the ballroom at the Uniondale Marriott, where Nassau Democrats had awaited election results. "This is a difficult night, but we still have to have a lot of hope. There are still races that are not decided yet," she said at about 11:30 p.m.
She added: "We are a great party. We are great public servants."
Minutes later, in an interview with Newsday, Rice said, "I think what we are seeing here tonight is voter dissatisfaction of historic proportions for this county.
"People are worried about the economy and taxes and health care. This negative mood shows that Nassau County is not immune. That is why I'm so humbled to have won by such a sizable margin," Rice said.
Minutes earlier, Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs told the crowd, "Kathleen Rice has won a resounding victory. We are proud of her."
Rice, 44, of Locust Valley, stunned poll-watchers in 2005 when she unseated 30-year incumbent Denis Dillon. Since then, she has both won friends and ruffled feathers, launching an aggressive agenda against drunken driving, tightening her plea-bargaining policies and making a controversial out-of-court deal to bring megastore Walmart to justice after a seasonal worker was trampled to death in a post-Thanksgiving shopping stampede there.
Watson, 50, of Hempstead, now a law clerk to a state Supreme Court justice, was highly critical of Rice's tenure, saying during the campaign that she fired many accomplished prosecutors and replaced them with bureau chiefs who, for the most part, live outside Nassau County.
As she made waves, she gained some national attention, landing on television shows including "60 Minutes" and "Dr. Phil." Many people have speculated she hopes to run for state attorney general next year.