Bolstered Thursday morning by the endorsement of the Democratic Organization of Queens County, state attorney general candidate Kathleen Rice later met with reporters in Briarwood to discuss her prosecutorial past and vision for the future of the position being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo.
Rice, who has been Nassau County’s district attorney for the past five years, presented her case and fielded questions inside Flagship Diner on Queens Boulevard, shortly after gaining the support of Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens and Bronx), Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, a host of elected officials and civic leaders at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
“District Attorney Rice has the experience, the passion and the drive to continue Andrew Cuomo’s good work and I have no doubt that she will be a great attorney general for Queens and for all of New York,” said Crowley, DOQC chairman.
Rice, the seventh of 10 children, said the borough “holds a special place in my heart” because both of her parents were born and raised in Queens. The granddaughter of Irish immigrants also said she understands “immigrant issues and communities,” and that her legal career has been based on a drive to provide a voice for those who don’t have one.
Rice noted that immigrants are most often the victims of consumer-based crimes such as predatory lending, and mortgage and insurance fraud.
“Those who are being preyed upon are afraid to come forward,” Rice said. “One of the duties of the attorney general is to protect the people of New York State — whether you’re here legally or not.”
Rice lives in Garden City, LI, where she was raised. Her career in publice service began in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. After prosecuting homicides for DA Charles Hynes, Rice was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia
Shortly after defeating 31-year incumbent Nassau DA Dennis Dillon in 2005, Rice was thrust into the national spotlight for successfully prosecuting a DWI case as a homicide. Martin Heidgen was convicted of murder in 2006 after driving the wrong way on the Meadowbrook Parkway and slamming into a limousine carrying a wedding party. A 7-year-old girl and the limousine driver were killed.
“We have to have the moral courage to stand up and say ‘enough is enough,’” Rice said of what she called “the epidemic of drunk driving.”
Rice also said she is proud of law enforcement initiatives such as job training and education opportunities that enabled cops and prosecutors to address the drug problem in a small patch of Hempstead, LI. Those tactics led to a 70 percent reduction in crime in the area, and Rice noted they have been implemented throughout the state and are most likely to be rolled out across the country by the Department of Justice.
“Any effective law enforcement has to have the community on the side of law enforcement,” she said.
Rice indicated she would also continue to attack corruption across the state if elected. She called the Office of the Attorney General “the guardian of public trust,” and said she would work to amend the state’s “primary jurisdiction” law, which effectively handcuffs the AG’s office by allowing it to investigate public corruption only after being notified by the head of a state agency or the governor.
“The attorney general is in the ideal position to root out whatever corruption exists,” Rice said. “Any violation of the public trust eats away at our democracy.”
Rice also issued a detailed plan for a “just New York” in which she provides new initiatives for criminal justice, civil rights, legislation and financial accountability.
Rice has raised the most money in what has become a crowded field. She said that as of last Thursday she had about $4.5 million on hand after amassing $5.5 million since declaring her candidacy in the spring.
“I think it’s because my message of reform, accountability and transparency is resonating,” she posited.
Rice is running against four other Democrats: Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, state Sen. Eric Schneiderman, former superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department Eric Dinallo and former federal prosecutor Sean Coffey. The winner will face Republican Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan.
“I believe I can be a vehicle for change in state government,” Rice said.