Kevan Abrahams, minority leader of the Nassau County Legislature, endorsed Kathleen Rice, Nassau County’s district attorney, in the congressional race between her and Bruce Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the County Legislature, on Monday. Abrahams previously was a candidate in the race, but Rice defeated him in a June Democratic primary.
The two former primary opponents appeared together at a monthly meeting for local clergy at the Long Island Marriot in Uniondale, where Abrahams announced his endorsement.
In a statement that Rice’s camspaign distributed, Abrahams praised the job that Rice has done as district attorney, and he sought to link Blakeman, Rice’s Republican opponent, to the Tea Party, accusing both of “extremism.”
“I’m pleased to join Kathleen today and offer her my full support in her campaign to be the next congresswoman,” Abrahams said in the statement. “Although we were opponents in the past, what matters now is that we have come together as allies focused on keeping this seat in progressive Democratic hands.”
By endorsing Rice, Abrahams reversed course on his public criticism of the district attorney during their primary race. Earlier this year he questioned her office’s handling of an investigation into a politically charged Nassau County Police Department arrest, lambasted an anti-prostitution sting that her office spearheaded as a “charade” and called a state anti-corruption panel that Rice co-directed “an abject failure.”
Matt Coleman, a spokesman for Blakeman’s campaign, pointed out in an email that Abrahams did not address his prior criticisms of Rice.
“Bruce Blakeman is the only candidate in this race with an economic plan that will create jobs here in Nassau County and a well-thought-out Middle East policy,” Coleman wrote. “He’s also the only candidate who will repeal Obamacare and replace it with a better program.”
On Monday, Rice thanked Abrahams for his endorsement and said there is “far more that unites Kevan and me than divides us.”
“Kevan’s a truly talented and dedicated community leader, and I’m honored to have his support,” Rice said in her campaign’s statement. “I can’t wait to work with Kevan in Washington as we fight to create more economic opportunity for our neighborhoods being left out of the nation’s financial recovery.”
Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said earlier this month that he believes an important challenge for Rice in this election will be “motivating minority voters to come to the polls in a non-presidential election year.”
Abrahams is African-American and popular among Nassau’s minority communities. Obtaining his endorsement, and that of several black clergymen at the news conference, was a critical step for Rice’s campaign.