ALBANY - Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, edged closer Friday to declaring her candidacy for state attorney general.
"It's fair to say if Andrew Cuomo runs for governor, I intend to run for attorney general," Rice told Newsday.
Her comments came at the start of a five-day listening tour of upstate. The Democrat, who won in November a second term as Nassau's top prosecutor, plans to visit 15 counties.
Rice spent much of Friday meeting informally with politicians and journalists. She was in the Capitol and at a nearby hotel, the site of a three-day conference of black and Puerto Rican lawmakers.
"I'm happy to travel around, talk to regular people and hear what their issues are," Rice said. "I also want to talk to them about some of the things I've been able to do in Nassau that address the issues we face all across the state."
Rice is among at least five Democrats vying to succeed Cuomo, who is expected to announce his bid for governor next month. However, Cuomo continues to publicly say he is focused on being attorney general.
The other contenders are Assemb. Richard Brodsky of Westchester County, former federal prosecutor Sean Coffey, former insurance commissioner Eric Dinallo and state Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan. Each has more than $1 million in their respective campaign treasuries, except for Rice who has $2.4 million on hand as of reports filed last month with the state Board of Elections.
Rice said, "the people of New York are clamoring right now . . . for real public servants, not career politicians, not corporate lawyers, not Wall Street insiders or Albany insiders. I'm a prosecutor."
Asked which issues she would focus on as attorney general, Rice said she plans to build on the legacy of Cuomo and his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer. "As Andrew Cuomo has, I would continue to take reform positions. We need reform not just in our financial sector . . . but also accountability in all of our governmental agencies in Albany."
On Long Island Friday, reaction to Rice's probable run for statewide office was mixed.
Deena Cohen, president of the Long Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was glad to hear that Rice was eyeing a run, and hopes she will bring her strong stance against drunken driving to Albany.
Cornell Bouse, who heads Nassau's Criminal Courts Bar Association, has criticized Rice in the past for having rigid policies on prosecutions and not viewing cases individually. But he said Friday she might be better suited for the attorney general post. "She's extremely capable and would make a fine attorney general," he said.
However, Republican Joy Watson who lost to Rice in the November elections said, "the people of Nassau County deserve someone who will pay great attention to the problems we face here."