At a lightly attended press conference on a shadowy corner on the steps of City Hall, feminist icon Gloria Steinem joined Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice on Tuesday afternoon to announce her support for Rice, the only woman in the competitive, five-way race for attorney general.
“The forces for justice are having a female face, more and more,” said Steinem, who said she met Rice for the first time last week. “We’ve been asked to lower our standards in order to accommodate less than half of the population. I hope we raise our standards. … She should be the next Attorney General.”
The praise was mutual.
“She’s a living legend,” Rice said of the activist, adding, “Gloria Steinem has always been a personal inspiration.”
To the Observer, Steinem clarified that she wasn’t supporting Rice because she’s a woman: “I’ve supported men against women when men are better on the issues.”
Rice too said that the latest endorsement is not important simply because she’s the only woman in the race, but rather because Steinem is a progressive activist that stands up for the oppressed.
“Gloria Steinem is such an advocate for victims who very often don’t have a voice and that is what I’ve spent my entire career doing,” Rice told the Observer.
Rice recently won endorsements from EMILY’s List, which usually reserves its endorsements for women running in congressional races.
During the press conference, Rice took a break from complimenting her new friend to reiterate her support for Rockefeller Drug Law reform, which has been questioned by State Senator Eric Schneiderman, who has challenged her to a debate on the topic. (Mr. Schneiderman’s camp has questioned wehther she was, in fact, a supporter of the law.)
“I think right now the only debating that Senator Schneiderman should be doing is with his colleagues in Albany so we can finally get a budget here in New York State,” Rice said when asked whether she’d agree to the debate.
“I have always been in support of the Rockefeller Drug Law,” she said. “I am the only candidate in this race who is actually, actively in the process of diverting non-violent offenders into treatment programs.”
It’s easy, she defended, to throw insinuations from a “political perch in Albany.”
Asked about the perceptions that she’s the preferred candidate of gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo, Rice told the Observer, “No one has told me that I’m being supported by the Attorney General.”
“There isn’t a candidate in this case that has a stronger record of being an independent voice,” she said. “I’m going to continue being that independent voice when I’m elected. That is what’s going to define me, not whatever perceived support I may or may not be getting from anyone else.”
Steinem chimed in that, after all, Rice can’t really control who supports her and who doesn’t. “It’s so interesting–if Cuomo was supporting someone else, you’d be asking a question about them,” she told the Observer. “It doesn’t seem to me to make sense.”