Democrats, GOP consider DA options
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If Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice wins her bid to succeed Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will appoint a temporary successor, and county Democrats and Republicans already are mulling potential candidates to replace her.
Cuomo, a Democrat up for re-election this year, would appoint a district attorney who would hold the seat until a November 2015 special election for the last two years of Rice's term.
The appointee could have a major advantage in the special election, with nearly a year to prosecute high-profile cases and build a fundraising base, political experts said.
The two most frequently discussed candidates are former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a Democrat who is close to Cuomo, and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, a close ally of GOP chairman Joe Mondello. Some have mentioned Madeline Singas, Rice's chief assistant district attorney and a former prosecutor in the Queens district attorney's office.
Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said the party should focus on candidates with legal backgrounds, including prosecutors, attorneys and judges. Rice previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn.
"I want someone who demonstrates true seriousness about looking into public corruption in Nassau County," said Jacobs. "I also want someone the Republicans can look at and say, 'This person will be fair and not gratuitously partisan.' "
Jacobs was highly critical of Rice's decision last year not to file criminal charges after then-Police Commissioner Thomas Dale ordered the arrest of a witness in a politically charged court case on an open warrant for failing to pay a $250 fine. Rice said she made her decision based on the facts.
Mondello said last week that it was "far too early" to make a decision but that Venditto "would be an excellent candidate."
Speculation about a possible Democratic appointment has centered on Kaiman, a former District Court judge. Last year, Cuomo put Kaiman in charge of Sandy recovery projects on Long Island and named him chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board.
"I appreciate my name being included in the discussion, but right now my focus is on Long Island storm recovery and NIFA," Kaiman said in an email."These are both serious tasks that warrant my full attention at this time."
Other possible district attorney candidates under discussion among Democrats are State Supreme Court Justice Timothy Driscoll, who was a deputy county executive for law enforcement and public safety under former County Executive Thomas Suozzi; Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink.
A Cuomo spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
GOP sources said Republicans are considering Venditto and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, who announced Friday that she would not run for McCarthy's seat in the 4th Congressional District. Neither Murray nor Venditto responded to requests for comment.
The Nassau district attorney's office is one of the largest in the state, with a $30 million budget and a staff of 375, including more than 175 attorneys.