Nassau's district attorney slid into a booth at the Carle Place Diner last week, ordered cantaloupe for breakfast and began talking about crime.

As the county's chief prosecutor, Kathleen Rice, has battled drunken drivers and drug dealers. She has spent her entire career in public service - first as an assistant prosecutor in Brooklyn, then as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and since 2006 as the Nassau district attorney.

Now Rice, 45, of Garden City, is campaigning to become the next state attorney general. On Wednesday, Democratic leaders from across the state will vote at the party's convention in Westchester to pick candidates to appear on the primary ballot in September. Rice needs at least 25 percent of the vote to qualify.


A standout among hopefuls

If elected, Rice would be the first woman ever to hold the job. Political observers say the fact that she's the only woman among the five Democrats seeking the attorney general's nomination, and that she's from a big downstate suburb, makes her attractive to many party officials - particularly presumptive gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, who wants a "balanced ticket" of statewide candidates.

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Rice said she hopes to put her hard-driving, innovative style to work statewide the way she has in Nassau, where, she said, "I wanted to redefine what it meant to be a modern prosecutor."

After graduating from Touro Law School, Rice in 1992 became an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn under District Attorney Charles Hynes. She prosecuted domestic violence, sexual assault and armed robbery cases, eventually receiving a promotion to the homicide bureau.

"Kathleen Rice was a superb assistant district attorney who was a prolific trial lawyer," Hynes said recently.

In 1999, Rice became an assistant federal prosecutor in Philadelphia under U.S. attorney Michael Stiles, who has contributed $1,000 to her campaign war chest.

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