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Primary Day is still more than a week away, but the Congressional campaign of Democrat Kathleen Rice already has its eyes on a potential general election opponent.
Rice’s team on Thursday released a statement that attempted to pressure Republican Bruce Blakeman to identify his stance on comprehensive immigration reform – the issue that many pundits have said led to the stunning primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) earlier this week.
“Eric Cantor lost his primary to a Tea Party challenger because he dared to support even the prospect of a sensible compromise on immigration reform,” said Rice spokesman Coleman Lamb. “Facing a very similar primary, will Bruce Blakeman do the right thing and stand up for comprehensive immigration reform and bipartisan compromise, or will he cave and do what’s popular with the extremist wing of his base?”
Rice, the Nassau district attorney, will face County Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams in the June 24 Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) in the 4th District. Both candidates back immigration reform, like most House Democrats.
The focus on Blakeman, a former legislative presiding officer from Long Beach, comes as he’s set to face New Hyde Park attorney Frank Scaturro in the GOP primary. Both men are touting their conservative credentials, and in many parts of the country, Republicans who have expressed support for bipartisan immigration reform are being challenged from the right by candidates who reject such a plan.
But Long Island's only Republican congressman, Rep. Peter King, has become a leading moderate voice of his party -- and has said that he supports "legalization and a pathway to citizenship" in a package of measures to fix the immigration system.
Matt Coleman, a spokesman for Blakeman, declined on Thursday to describe Blakeman’s stance on immigration reform “at this time.”
[UPDATED] Later in the day Thursday, Blakeman responded to a request for comment by saying that his immigration policy could be summed up with, "secure our borders now, and don't trust President Obama."
Upon questioning, Blakeman added that “until our borders are secure, and we have verification that it is being done, we cannot have a conversation about immigration policy.” He said that he would be willing to discuss comprehensive reform only after the federal government first "hardened our assets, hired more border patrol and improved technology to better monitor our borders."
Scaturro spokesman Sam Abady said that Scaturro believes "border security is a first step toward reform," but that it should also increased increased workplace verification and encourage "naturalization of the skilled labor workforce and those who serve in our military." Scaturro opposes "mass amnesty," but once border security is handled, he supports a comprehensive reform plan, Abady said.
Coleman, in a statement earlier on Thursday, had responded to Rice’s campaign challenge to Blakeman by referring to Rice’s January resignation as co-chair of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s state commission to investigate public corruption.
Rice resigned after declaring her candidacy for Congress. Months later, Cuomo abruptly ended the Moreland Act commission after he struck a political deal with the legislature for some of his ethics proposals. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has told New York's Legislature to preserve all its records related to the commission.
“Kathleen Rice's lighting quick exit from Albany’s Moreland Commission may have left her a little dazed and confused,” Coleman said. “The better question to ask is: does Kathleen Rice have a Barack Obama problem if she is her party's candidate in November?”