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Rice Confident as AG Campaign Enters Final Hours

Attorney general hopeful campaigns at Penn Station 12 hours before polls open.

Democratic state attorney general candidate Kathleen Rice remains confident of victory as the primary race enters its final hours. 

Campaigning at the Long Island Rail Road entrance to Penn Station Monday evening, a scant 12 hours before polls open, Rice, the two-term Nassau County district attorney, stressed many of her key campaign points during an interview with Patch. Rice continued to hammer her qualifications for the state's top legal post, stressing her work as DA, along with her work as a federal prosecutor and with the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

"I am the only person in the race who has run a law enforcement agency," Rice said. "I am the only candidate who has run a large law firm."

Polls show Rice in a virtual dead heat with state Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan for the Democratic attorney general nomination. Former federal prosecutor Sean Coffey, Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester County and former state insurance superintendent Eric Dinallo are also competing for the nomination.

The race is the only competitive statewide Democratic primary on Tuesday's ballot. The Democratic winner will face Staten Island DA Dan Donovan for the right to succeed Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is running for governor.

Rice's campaigning at the LIRR platform comes as polls show her leading amongst voters in the New York City suburbs, including among her Long Island base. The last poll showed Schneiderman leading in the city, while Coffey has taken the lead among upstate voters. 

Rice, of Garden City, said that while she has been focused on suburban and city voters in recent days, she has been running a statewide campaign, stressing stops in upstate communities last week. She said that her work in Nassau County has prepared her for the statewide stage, saying that many of the issues confronting the 1.3 million Nassau residents are also faced by state government and residents from Lewiston to Lewisboro. 

Rice said these issues include illegal guns, drugs, drunk driving, predatory lending, Internet crimes, children's issues, criminal justice and ethics reform. Rice said her experience includes 19 years practicing law and making legal decisions. 

"That's a big distinction," she said. "There are some people in this race who have not practiced law in years."

Rice and Schneiderman have been locked in an increasingly bitter race as the campaign enters the final day. Much of the campaign has been centered on their competing visions for the attorney general's office, with Rice focusing on criminal justice issues and Schneiderman campaigning on social and economic justice, and stressing his ties to organized labor. 

Rice said she is confidant that her criminal justice message will be successful and she will be able to focus on criminal justice issues in the office. The attorney general's office has primarily been seen in the past as a civil agency focused mainly on consumer protection issues. Cuomo has centered the office on ethics issues, while his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, focused his work on policing Wall Street.

Rice has said she will use the office to focus on Albany reform issues, one of the biggest issues being discussed on the campaign trail statewide this year. She said her background as a county prosecutor and former federal prosecutor sets her apart to tackle these issues since she has not worked in the state capital. This platform has been seen by many as a direct swipe at Schneiderman, a six-term state senator and member of the Democratic Senate leadership. 

Rice said she does not believe last week's report in City Hall News that she interviewed with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer's search committee for the new U.S. attorney for Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens in 2009 would hinder her in Tuesday's election. Rice conducted the interview in the middle of her re-election campaign for district attorney and before she announced her bid for attorney general.

Rice said the interview occurred before Cuomo announced his bid for governor and before she considered an attorney general campaign. While Cuomo did not announce his campaign for governor until 2010, he was increasingly viewed as a gubernatorial candidate in 2009.

"I am proud that I was encouraged to apply for that post," Rice said of the U.S. attorney's office, which went to Loretta Lynch.

Rice said she believes voters are seeking change in Albany and that will help carry her to victory tomorrow.

"I think that when voters go and have their views heard they will vote for change," she said before boarding a train home.

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