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Fresh Off Congress Win, Kathleen Rice Pushes For Top Assistant To Take Over As Acting Nassau DA

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, says she would like her chief assistant to take over as acting DA until a special election can be held next November.

Democrat Kathleen Rice spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday, a day after defeating Republican opponent Bruce Blakeman in the 4th Congressional District on Long Island.

The district attorney, still basking in her victory, said in an interview at her campaign office that she plans to remain as prosecutor until she is sworn in as a congresswoman on Jan. 3.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have the final say on whether to appoint a successor or schedule an election. But Rice said she'd like her chief assistant, Madeline Singas, to succeed her because continuity is important in a law enforcement agency that operates 24/7.

"I think it is critically important that there be a consistency in the management and not a lot of upheaval between now and next November when a new DA will be elected," Rice said.

She said of Singas, who has been a prosecutor for 25 years and her chief assistant for the past four years: "She's incredibly capable; she lives in the county with her husband and two kids. I feel more than confident that she could ably steer the ship."

Rice said she would "never be that presumptuous" to reach out to Cuomo to discuss her successor, but added, "It would be my hope that he would ask me what I thought."

Singas did not immediately comment through a spokesman for the district attorney's office.

Rice, who has earned a national reputation for cracking down on drunken driving cases and uncovered a college entrance exam cheating scandal that led to nationwide reforms, was first elected district attorney in 2005; she is in her third, four-year term.

In the House, Rice replaces retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who served nine terms after being elected on a gun control platform following the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre; McCarthy's husband was killed and son wounded in that mass shooting.

Rice expressed confidence that her background as a prosecutor would serve her well in carrying on McCarthy's gun control efforts.

"There isn't anyone who is going to go to Washington in January with more credibility on the issue of gun violence than me," Rice said.

"My goal is to change the semantics, if you will, and talk about it as purely an issue of gun violence. Just shut the NRA off at this whole 'attack on the 2nd Amendment, you know they're going to take your guns.' They've been able to hijack this issue in a really irresponsible way and I think I'm going to be able to be effective just given my background, so I'm going to be proud to carry on in her tradition."

Rice also has attracted national attention for her crackdowns on drunk driving and cheating on college entrance exams.

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