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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

C.D. 4: Handicapper now sees seat as "safe" to remain Democratic

A handicapper of Congressional races has shifted its classification of the 4th District battle between Democrat Kathleen Rice and Republican Bruce Blakeman from a “likely” to “safe” Democratic victory.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics published a report Thursday on its “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” blog that looked at House Republicans’ goal to gain a net of 11 seats during the midterm elections, bringing their majority to 245.

In it, the Center, which is directed by political analyst Larry J. Sabato, shifted its predictions for 13 races across the country – including the one for retiring Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s Nassau County seat.

Rice, the Nassau District attorney, is facing Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature.

The district has about 206,000 registered Democrats, 171,000 Republicans and 135,000 voters belonging to either a minor party or no party, according to the state board of elections. McCarthy (D-Mineola) has served nine terms, and in 2012, President Barack Obama won comfortably in the district over GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

“I just don’t see this race as a priority for the national Republicans this year – I think they are scared away by Rice’s immense fundraising,” Kyle Kondik, who analyzes House races for the Center for Politics, said in an email, referring to the $2.4 million Rice raised in the first six months of 2014. “Also, the district gave 56% of its votes to President Obama in 2012: That’s right on the periphery of where Republicans can credibly compete.”

But the National Republican Congressional Committee has said that it sees Blakeman as an open seat contender worthy of additional resources. And Matt Coleman, a spokesman for Blakeman, discounted the poll by referring to Sabato as a political pundit who frequently offers his opinion in the media.

“This means nothing. Dr. Dial-a-Quote’s’ poll is meaningless; he’s been wrong plenty of times before. By October the ‘Dr. Phil of American politics’ will have changed his mind again,” said Coleman, using two nicknames for Sabato that have appeared in the media.

In terms of fundraising, Blakeman has loaned himself $700,000 so far to stay competitive with Rice, and expects more national help, his campaign has said. Further, Blakeman has been aggressive of late in trying to tie Rice to the controversy surrounding Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s shuttered anti-corruption commission.

Rice had resigned as co-chair of the commission in January, upon announcing her candidacy. Cuomo later disbanded the commission, and last month, the New York Times reported that his office had “deeply compromised” it by interfering in its work.

The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating the circumstances surrounding the commission’s shut down. Rice has declined to comment on the controversy, citing the ongoing probe – which her aides say she is assisting.

Eric Phillips, Rice’s spokesman, said that the Center for Politics’ assessment shows that Blakeman’s attacks aren’t being taken seriously.

“Kathleen Rice has been speaking honestly about her record and how she plans to fight for the middle class in Washington. Bruce Blakeman has spent his time smearing Kathleen and flailing from one lie to the next,” Phillips said. “While we aren’t surprised independent experts and Republican operatives see the Rice advantage growing every time Blakeman opens his mouth, Kathleen is going to stay aggressive and run like the underdog she’s always been.”

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