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Rice steps aside


As state Sen. Andrew Rice resigns, Rep. Al McAffrey launches his Senate campaign.

Clifton Adcock October 26th, 2011

First elected in 2006, state Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City (pictured), said he is resigning in January 2012 to support his wife. Dr. Apple Newman Rice, who practices medicine, had a career opportunity arise with a private health group in Nashville, Tenn., the legislator said.

“She has made immense sacrifices for me in her support of my political career and public service, and I am honored to be able to reciprocate that for her now,” Rice said in a statement. “It has been an immense honor and privilege to serve the people of Senate District 46. I am grateful I have had the opportunity to be their voice at the state Capitol. … We are sad that this change will take us away from Oklahoma, but this is the best decision for our family at this time.”

Rice (pictured, right), 38, said he would rather make the move now, while his children are still young, than later, when the decision may be more difficult.

“Our kids are still young, and if we don’t do it, we’ll always wonder ‘What if?’ And we don’t want to be doing that later in life,” he said.

Rice said he is not sure what he will be doing in Nashville — although he did say he wished he had some musical talent, since he’s going to be living in the epicenter of country music production — but that he may look to work in the university system or be involved in politics, but not elected office.

“I don’t know what I’m going to be doing. That comes later,” he said. “I’m not going to go there and run for anything.”

Rice received praise from both sides of the ideological divide following his resignation, including from Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa.

“Though we may not have always seen eye-to-eye on every issue, I have nothing but respect for Sen. Rice and his service to the state of Oklahoma. He is compassionate, intellectually honest and relentless in the defense of his constituents,” Bingman said in a statement.

Rice said making the move is bittersweet, since he hates leaving Oklahoma City when it is “the best it’s ever been.”

“I’m getting a lot of nice letters, but there’s some sadness. We sort of felt the same way,” Rice said. “We struggled with the decision, actually, for quite a while. It’s a highly selective process for the position she got.”

In 2008, Rice unsuccessfully ran against longtime U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa. The Democrat’s legislative term expires in 2014. In a statement, Rice said he always considered public service to be a limited and temporary part of his career.

The Senate Democratic Caucus will hold an internal election in the coming months to choose a new minority leader.

“I look forward to what lies ahead for me in my career now that I am leaving elected office,” Rice said in a statement. “Whatever it may be, I will continue to pursue ways to try and improve the common good, and be a voice for the underdog.”

A special election will be held 30 days after Rice’s resignation to fill the Senate seat.

Thus far, one person has announced candidacy for the post: Democratic Rep. Al McAffrey, who currently represents House District 88.

McAffrey (pictured, right) said he was sad to see Rice leave Oklahoma.

“Andrew and I have been close friends since we ran in the House and Senate and worked very closely on everything,” McAffrey said. “I was sorry to hear Andrew leave, because he’s a good senator. He’s one of a kind that really has a passion to take care of the people. I’m disappointed he’s leaving, but I understand his wife has a career and I admire Andrew for saying, ‘Hey, she stood by me, this is something I need to do to stand by her.’ I think I lost a friend, and I think we’ve lost a good senator.”

McAffrey said Rice contacted him a week prior to the announcement and told him he was considering resigning, and called him the night before the public announcement to tell him the decision had been finalized.

“I was not aware he was leaving, I was not aware Apple had taken a job. They kind of kept it close to their vest and had not made a decision to the very last minute themselves,” he said. “It wasn’t one of these things where we planned it out. It was a deal I didn’t know anything about. There were rumors out there Andrew wanted to retire or leave or something, and I thought all that was, ‘Oh, it’s the (Republican controlled) Senate; you can’t get anything done right now.’ Everyone has those feelings.”

McAffrey said both SD 46 and HD 88 have traditionally been progressive, and he expects they will stay that way.

McAffrey said he has gotten several calls from people interested in running for the HD 88 seat, should he win the Senate bid, but declined to disclose names.

Photo by Shannon Cornman
 
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