Nassau DA Kathleen Rice Wins Seat in Congress

Bruce Blakeman Kathleen Rice

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has won a new job, replacing retiring U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), a gun-control advocate who was the first Congresswoman to represent part of Long Island.

Rice, a 49-year-old Democrat from Garden City, defeated Republican Bruce Blakeman, 59, a former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature and former Port Authority board member from Long Beach, who had tried to make her sound weak on national security issues. Unlike her, he promised he’d vote to repeal President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act health care reform, aka Obamacare.

“From the minute I sat down at her kitchen table…last January there was no going back and she was at my side the whole way,” Rice told supporters at the Garden City Hotel. “We did something really simple tonight, we also did something really important. We proved that positivity…beats fear mongering.”

Rice won 52 percent of the vote over Blakeman, who won 47 percent, according to the Nassau County Board of Elections. She also ran on the Working Families Party line while Blakeman also had the Conservative and Tax Revolt party lines.

“My only real regret is that I’m not going to get to fight the fights with [Congressman Peter King],” Blakeman told supporters at GOP Election Night headquarters in Westbury. “We started this race against all odds and we lost at the wire.”

Rice, who unsuccessfully ran for New York State attorney general four years ago, leaves her Mineola office for Washington, D.C. after serving eight years as Nassau’s first female district attorney—a job she won by unseating longtime Republican incumbent Denis Dillon. During her tenure, she cracked down on drunk driving and won the first murder conviction against a drunken driver who caused a fatal crash. She also responded to a college admissions-test cheating scandal in Great Neck by helping to foster changes nationwide in test security.

She joins the House of Representatives as a member of the Democratic minority, which lost more ground against the Republicans in this off-year election. She said she wanted to find ways to fund federal investments in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. She also supported raising the minimum wage, keeping a lid on middle class taxes and reforming immigration laws.

And in line with her predecessor’s policy, Rice has promised to persist in McCarthy’s decades-long fight to stem gun violence by closing gun-show loopholes that let people buy weapons without undergoing background checks. So, once Rice is in Congress, she too will become a political target for the National Rifle Association.

What she can accomplish in a GOP-dominated Congress remains to be seen.

McCarthy, who was on stage for the victory speech, said: “I have worked with Kathleen for a lot of years and…[when] I decided I was going to retire there was only one person in my mind that I wanted to take over the district.”

As for the rest of Long Island’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) was unseated by New York State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). Winning re-elections were U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens)