U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice poses outside of her office in...

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice poses outside of her office in Garden City in June, 2020. Credit: James Escher

WASHINGTON — Rep. Kathleen Rice dropped a surprise tweet Tuesday saying she will not run for reelection, creating a third open congressional seat on Long Island in this year’s midterm elections and dimming the Island’s clout in the U.S. House.

Rice, of Garden City, announced on her 57th birthday that she would leave Congress at the end of her fourth term as a moderate Democrat and member of the pro-business New Democrat Coalition. But she did not say what she plans to do next.

"I have always believed that holding political office is neither destiny nor a right," Rice said in her tweeted statement. "As elected officials, we must give all we have and then know when it is time to allow others to serve."

She added, "Though I will not be running for reelection to Congress this year, I will remain focused on protecting our democracy and serving my constituents throughout the rest of my term."

Rice declined an interview, said her spokeswoman Nora Kohli.

Kohli said Rice’s accomplishments include her work on early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, offshore wind energy, veterans’ mental health and designating Manhattan’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory to assist the response to terrorism.

In her four terms, Rice has often clashed with progressive Democrats and twice voted against the election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to House speaker while calling for Pelosi to step aside to allow new blood to move into the House Democratic leadership.

Rice, a career state and federal prosecutor, serves on the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee, but was blocked from joining her first choice, the House Judiciary Committee.

A friend and ally of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rice joined a handful of other moderate Democrats earlier this year in blocking a proposal to cap drug prices that had broad support among House and Senate Democrats.

Rice’s decision means that three of the four congressional districts on Long Island will have open seats in the midterm elections in November. And it will mean that Long Island will have less clout in the House as it loses seats on two of the four most powerful committees.

Both Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) chose to run for their party’s nomination for New York governor rather than reelection to Congress.

Rice becomes the 30th Democrat to bow out of the election this fall, adding to the headwinds against the Democratic Party, which now has a 10-seat majority. Historically, the incumbent president's party tends to lose seats in the midterms.

Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, said Rice told him about her plans to step down but did not say what she would be doing next.

"I just think it was a personal decision. I think she’s just taken a look at 17 years in public service and she just felt it this was a good time to step aside and do something else," Jacobs told Newsday.

Jacobs said he was not worried about his party losing the district, which changed little in the redistricting process. Pundits rate it as solidly Democratic.

"We should be fine in the district," Jacobs said. "We just have to find the right candidate. This is a district that needs a moderate Democrat with broad-based appeal."

Among names of Democrats being tossed about as Rice’s replacement are former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Nassau County Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams and former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen.

"Clearly, Kathleen Rice saw the writing on the wall, deciding to step down from Congress rather than face angry voters in November," said Nassau County Republican Committee chairman Joseph Cairo in a statement. "Republicans will offer a sound and sensible alternative to Democrats' left-wing agenda."

A Republican who became a Democrat in 2005, Rice won the seat held by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in 2014 after nine years as Nassau County’s elected district attorney. She previously worked as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia.

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