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Rice watches Abrahams
State and local Democrats have tried to persuade Kathleen Rice to drop her opposition to Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo giving the nod to the state party to spend $100,000 in digital advertising in her Nassau district.
Rice has adamantly opposed Pelosi and maintains that she will vote against the California Democrat during a Jan. 3 floor vote. Pelosi’s tough exchange with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday earned her wide praise, but it did not change Rice’s mind. And neither will any deal that would give Pelosi enough votes and term-limit her out in four years.
So, with Pelosi guaranteed the speaker’s gavel, what happens to Rice in the Democratic caucus and her ability to bring home the bacon to CD4?
As pressure mounts on Rice, there has been maneuvering in the last few weeks to recruit a primary challenger to her. The general agreement is that the most formidable candidate would be Kevan Abrahams, the leader of the Nassau County Legislature Democratic caucus. In 2014, after Carolyn McCarthy announced her retirement, Rice, then the Nassau County district attorney, beat Abrahams by about 2,000 votes in a primary and went on to win the general election. But could Abrahams beat her in two years if he has the support of the Democratic establishment that is now aligned against her?
Abrahams told The Point that he is focused on winning re-election to the legislature in 2019, but that he will closely watch what happens in D.C. in the first few months of a Democrat-controlled House. “I will be looking to see how well the 4th District is served,” he said. “If we see Tom Suozzi in the 3rd and the folks in Queens delivering but the 4th only gets dribs and drabs, then I would take that into consideration.” Abrahams worked on Capitol Hill in the late 1990s as legislative aide to Floyd Flake who represented part of Queens for a decade.
Rice seems unfazed, telling The Point in a statement, “When I ran for Congress, I promised to be an independent voice for our district who would stand up to my own party when I thought it necessary. But I would gladly put up my progressive record against any potential challenger in 2020.”
After 400,000 Nassau County households mistakenly got a robocall around 6 p.m. Monday that should have gone to only 3,500 residents, county officials blamed the mistake on “a computer glitch.” But there was a human error, too.
The computer glitch came in trying to get the software to create a smaller calling list targeting senior citizens with income under $37,399 to remind them to fill out paperwork for a special tax exemption. The human error came when Michael Martino, the communications director for County Executive Laura Curran, gave the go-ahead to the county’s vendor to place the calls knowing they would go to nearly every home in Nassau, and not just the affected seniors.
The result was bedlam Tuesday, when 800 people, many of whom had already filled out their paperwork and some of who cannot qualify for the program, crowded into the county assessor’s office looking for help, answers and reassurance.
The county put out another call at 10 a.m. Tuesday telling residents to ignore the first call. By then, taxpayers had been lining up at the county for hours.
It’s an unforced error that came at a dreadful time for Curran, as she’s trying to move the county through a vast and difficult reassessment process. And heat is also coming from politicians in both the GOP and Curran’s own Democratic Party who see taxpayer anger as a problem worth heading off at all costs.
On Wednesday, as Curran struggled to stop the fallout, Martino helped his boss craft a statement addressing the screw-up that included an apology of his own.
It was a dreadful error and bad timing, too, for Martino, who was already leaving the administration after its first tumultuous year.