DA Rice gets ahead while staying put

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An undated file photo of Kathleen Rice at

An undated file photo of Kathleen Rice at a news conference. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

Kathleen Rice, Nassau County's district attorney, joined a group that included Reps. Steve Israel and Charles Rangel at a meeting in Manhattan recently.

The topic of the session hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included voting rights, according to several people invited to the Jan. 19 session.

Rice's attendance -- along with reports that she raised the third-highest amount of cash of any potential state or local candidate or committee in New York State during the last six months of last year -- continues to fuel speculation that she is seeking higher office.

Not so, said her political spokesman, Eric Phillips. Or at least not so for now, said Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic Party chairman.

"She loves being district attorney," Phillips said, adding that Rice attended the New York City session, just as she has attended other political events, as a "meet and greet" to expand her circle of contacts.

"It helps her politically, but most of all it helps Nassau County because relationships count when it comes to seeking resources for Nassau from Albany and Washington," Phillips said.

Rice was not available for comment.

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Jacobs said Rice is doing what she is supposed to be doing. "As her robust fundraising shows, there are a lot of people who see her as talented and having innovative ideas, and they would like to see that skill set put to use in other ways," he said.

Could one of those ways be as candidate for the U.S. Congress?

Jacobs declined to speculate. And both he and Phillips pointed out, correctly, that none of Long Island's current federal representatives are ready to step down.

Last week, the public got a first look at proposals to revise district lines for State Senate and Assembly, which already are drawing protests from good-government types because -- and this is never a surprise -- the lines pretty much protect the status quo for a majority-Democratic Assembly and a majority-Republican Senate.

New York has yet to see any proposed new lines for congressional seats. "They appear to be still ironing some things out," Jacobs said.


It would be stunning, however, if the new federal lines move too far away from the traditional ones.

And don't forget about the five local incumbents who all presumably will run for re-election.

"Everything in politics is timing," Jacobs said, again noting that there's nothing open on the state or federal level for a Rice candidacy.

"Both of our [U.S.] senators are Democrats; the state attorney general is going to be there for several more years," he said. "But it's smart to build relationships so that when an opportunity comes up, a candidate is ready to take advantage of it, and Kathleen is smart."

Jacobs repeatedly had mentioned Rice as a potential candidate for Nassau County executive. His wish list also includes North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, former County Executive Thomas Suozzi, and -- if there's no other strong candidate -- Jacobs himself.

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For now, however, it is no small matter that Rice gets invited to Democratic functions by Israel, who, as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also is one of the party's major congressional talent scouts.

The committee did not return a call for comment last week, but Jacobs and Phillips both said that Israel, who began his climb toward Washington as a Huntington Town board member, has taken Rice under his wing.

"She's grateful for that," Phillips said. "But she loves her job as district attorney."

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