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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Speculation about Nassau DA's job arises in Congress race

Congressional candidate Kathleen Rice waves to supporters after

Congressional candidate Kathleen Rice waves to supporters after winning her primary on election night at Pier 95 restaurant in Freeport on the evening of June 24, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

One big source of Long Island political buzz stands out this season in all its glorious prematurity: The question of who would succeed Democrat Kathleen Rice as Nassau district attorney if she wins a congressional seat.

Bruce Blakeman, her Republican opponent, looks to avert the scenario by defeating Rice Nov. 4 and joining the House GOP majority in Washington. But while Rice's fundraising edge and high local profile don't guarantee her success, insiders of both major parties consider her chances strong enough to indulge in early speculation about potential successors.

Should Rice succeed retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) in January, the governor gets to appoint a temporary successor, who would serve most of next year. A special countywide election, very possibly including that appointee, would be held in November 2015 to fill out Rice's current term, which runs through 2017.

Many of the hypothetical scenarios depend, in turn, on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo winning re-election over Republican challenger Rob Astorino and making the appointment.

But let's stick to one set of "ifs" at a time.

Names tossed around include Jon Kaiman, Cuomo's appointee as chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority and former North Hempstead supervisor; Madeline Singas of Manhasset, who has been Rice's chief assistant district attorney for the past three years, and Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove). Republican Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, a former assistant state attorney general, crops up in multiple off-the-record conversations, as does former assistant U.S. attorney Joseph Conway, an attorney in Mineola.

A governor's appointment packs special clout. In 1991, Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed then-state Supreme Court Justice Richard Brown to replace Queens DA John Santucci. Six elections and 23 years later, Brown remains in the job.

It doesn't always work out that way. In 1974, Gov. Malcolm Wilson tapped Richard Kuh to become Manhattan DA with the departure of the renowned Frank Hogan. In a Democratic primary for the special election later that year, Robert Morgenthau defeated Kuh, then went on to hold the job for a total of 35 years.

Rice puts her DA experience front and center in the current campaign. Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the Nassau Legislature, already has hinted at a willingness to make her current post and activities a debating point. He said in April: "I think there's a legitimate question that people could ask about how she was able to raise more money than any other congressional candidate in the U.S. for this filing period."

Rice spokesman Eric Phillips responded in part at the time: "Fundraising takes hard work, a record of accomplishment, and a deep and diverse network of supporters."

Trying to move from a DA's office to the House may sound unusual, but isn't unheard of. Just last month in Weld County, Colorado, Republican DA Ken Buck was nominated to succeed GOP Rep. Corey Gardner, who's running for U.S. Senate. In contrast, Democrat Liz Holtzman moved from House member to Brooklyn district attorney in 1981.

Each election is different -- and so is the raw guesswork it spawns for players and pundits.

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