Kathleen Rice resigns from Moreland Commission after announcing congressional quest

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice in Mineola on Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice in Mineola on Nov. 16, 2012 . Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice Thursday began her campaign for Congress by announcing her resignation from a state panel investigating public corruption, while a potential primary opponent said he'll continue exploring a run so 4th District voters can have a "clear choice."

Rice, a Garden City Democrat, said Wednesday she'll seek the seat being vacated by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola). Thursday, her office released a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in which she resigned as co-chair of the Moreland Commission.

"I find it crucial to insulate and safeguard the Commission's work from potential distractions posed by a high-profile political campaign involving one of its senior members," Rice wrote to Cuomo, who appointed her to the commission in July.

In December, the panel issued a preliminary report that criticized the "pay to play" culture in Albany. It found that unnamed state lawmakers had misused state grants, campaign contributions and reimbursements.

The report recommended public financing of campaigns to limit big donors' influence, closing loopholes that allow companies to ignore current state contribution limits and toughening bribery penalties.

Cuomo's office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment on Rice's resignation.

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Also Thursday, Nassau County Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams -- a potential 4th District candidate -- said he'd continue raising money as he explores a Democratic primary bid against Rice.

"I believe it's important that Democrats in the Fourth Congressional District are presented with a clear choice as to who should represent them in Washington," Abrahams (D-Freeport) said in a statement.

"There should be a robust discussion about who is best suited to continue Congresswoman McCarthy's mission to protect families from gun violence," Abrahams said. "The middle class is suffering due to rampant income inequality in this district, and voters should choose who is best suited to be their champion on those critical issues."

Abrahams last week created a campaign committee to raise funds, and on Wednesday held a minimum $1,000 per ticket fundraiser at The Carltun restaurant in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. His spokesman, Jeff Guillot, declined to disclose how much money was raised, but called the event "well attended."

Political analysts say candidates may need to spend well over $2.5 million to run a competitive race in the 4th District for both the primary and the general election.

Republicans continue to urge Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray to run for McCarthy's seat. Spokespeople for her and the county GOP declined to comment Thursday on the timetable for a decision.

Other Republicans who have expressed interest in the seat include county Legis. Francis X. Becker Jr. of Lynbrook and attorney Frank Scaturro of New Hyde Park, both of whom lost to McCarthy in 2012.

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