It was just before nine o’clock at the Garden City Hotel’s Polo Steakhouse when Kathleen Rice stepped before the podium, surrounded by family, to announce that she was retaining her seat as the incumbent United States representative for New York’s Fourth Congressional District, defeating Republican challenger David H. Gurfein by a whopping total of 59.37 percent to 40.59 percent. For many of her supporters, it was a deserved victory.
“I think she’s strong, verbal and believes. Her views are very similar to what I believe in terms of what’s right, the environment and the Democratic agenda,” said Rockville Centre resident and Rice volunteer Barbara Vaccaro.
Susan Holland, who has worked on both congressional campaigns also pointed out that Rice’s willingness to work with her Republican colleagues also resonated with voters. “I think she is very able to work across the aisle and that’s why she gained the confidence and support of the people,” the Merrick resident said. “I know she’ll go back to Washington regardless of the top of the ticket and do the same thing and continue to work for the benefit of all people in the country.”
As the CNN feed covering the 2016 presidential election was put on mute, Rice thanked her campaign volunteers, many who came from far-flung portions of her district. While alluding to the toxic atmosphere that’s come along as part of this particularly noxious presidential election cycle, Rice was proud to point out that she felt her constituents sent her back to Washington because she refused to get sucked into partisan politics.
“I told you that I was going to go to Washington to do things differently. And that I would find ways to break through the partisan gridlock and that I would work to find common ground and values that we share. I told you that my priority was to get things done, get real results and not to get myself reelected,” she said. “That’s exactly what I’ve tried to do every single day since I was sworn into office. Sometimes it meant standing up to Republicans when they focused on party politics, instead of doing the people’s business. When they created a taxpayer-funded committee to attack Planned Parenthood or held vote after vote to restrict women’s access to healthcare. Or refused to allow a vote on common sense laws to prevent gun violence. And sometimes it meant going against my own party. There are some people who say there is no place for that kind of approach to government today and that compromise and bipartisanship are words that may sound nice, but won’t win you any elections. Anyone who thinks that, let me be the first to tell you that the voters in our district, right here on Long Island, spoke loud and clear today and elected me to directly represent them for another two years.”
Among the supporters the Garden City resident thanked was her family, organized labor. Democratic Party leader Jay Jacobs and fellow officials on the federal, state and local level. Rice also gave special mention to those from across the aisle who supported her run.
“I want to give a special shout-out to the Republican officials who were brave enough to cross party lines to join our team for this race,” she said. “First and foremost, Floral Park Mayor Tom Tweedy, Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford, Atlantic Beach Mayor George Pappas and Bellerose Mayor Hank Schreiber. They were brave enough in an election year like this to say, ‘Politics matters only so much. We’re going to do the right thing.’ I can’t thank them enough for their support.”
Later on, Rice was just as grateful and modest about her accomplishments in winning a second term. Eager to return to the nation’s capitol to address issues having to do with comprehensive immigration reform, the student debt crisis, workplace rights and addressing gun violence, she knows that bipartisanship is what her constituents want and the only way effective governing will be achieved. This, even while trying to maintain optimism and hope in the face of withering skepticism she encountered while campaigning.
“It was really hard to hear over and over and over again how disappointed and defeated people felt and how they think that things are never going to change in Washington,” she said. “But people were thanking me for running such a positive campaign. My opponent is a nice guy and he served his country in a way that I did not, but I think I earned the right to be reelected. Looking at the numbers, I think people agreed with that. And it’s not just Democrats. I had to get Republican and independent support, and that’s very humbling.”