Nassau Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams yesterday launched his Democratic campaign to succeed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, saying he'd support a "progressive agenda."
Abrahams, 39, of Freeport, who has been a county legislator since 2002, said the 4th Congressional District needs a representative with "a proven record of advocacy" who can "stand up for the middle class and society's most vulnerable."
His likely Democratic primary opponent, Kathleen Rice, has been Nassau's district attorney since 2006. Rice has the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, including McCarthy (D-Mineola), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and several large labor unions.
"I can't focus on who's supporting her. Right now, the most important thing is making sure my message connects with the people of the 4th District," Abrahams said in an interview. "This entire race, and not just the primary, will be an enormous challenge. That said, I look forward to having a very robust debate with Kathleen Rice, and we can obviously each make our best cases on who is best suited for the job."
Abrahams believes he is on track to raise $200,000 by the end of the month. He said that even if Rice outraises him, he hopes his platform will resonate with voters of the district, which covers most of central-southern Nassau and has a roughly 30,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Taxes and federal minimum wage will be focuses, Abrahams said, also noting that as minority leader, he supported bipartisan efforts such as the Nassau Coliseum redevelopment.
And like Rice, Abrahams said he'd also push McCarthy's signature issue of gun control.
Rice campaign spokesman Eric Phillips said: "Whether it's combating gun violence or fighting for communities and families in need, Kathleen Rice has an unmatched record of independent advocacy....A primary campaign provides a great opportunity to highlight these distinctions.
DCCC spokesman Marc Brumer said Rice has the "best track record" to succeed McCarthy.
Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs won't endorse in the primary, "but these are two long-standing Democratic elected officials. If they each want to run, they're entitled.
"Still, I would caution both of them that you don't run for the sake of running," Jacobs said. "You run to win -- and you've got to demonstrate that you've got sufficient resources to engage in both the primary and the general election."
Republicans also are preparing for a potential 4th District primary. County GOP leaders back Bruce Blakeman, the county legislature's former presiding officer, against New Hyde Park attorney Frank Scaturro.