N.Y. governor says Kennedy wants to fill out Clinton's Senate term
ALBANY, N.Y - Caroline Kennedy, part of America's best-known political family, told New York's governor yesterday that she is interested in the US Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, making Kennedy the highest-profile candidate for the job.
"She told me she was interested in the position," said Governor David Paterson, a Democrat who has sole authority over the choice. "It's not a campaign. She'd like at some point to sit down" to discuss it.
Kennedy is the daughter of the President Kennedy and the niece of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Another uncle, the late Robert F. Kennedy, once held the Senate seat she wants. Her spokesman, Stefan Friedman, declined to comment.
Clinton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and was reelected by a wide margin in 2006, is expected to be confirmed as President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.
New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer, also said he has talked to Caroline Kennedy about the job.
"She's clearly interested," he said.
Over the past week, Kennedy, who lives in Manhattan, has reached out to several prominent New York Democrats, including Joel Klein, the city's education chancellor. Kennedy worked closely with Klein and raised about $65 million for the city's schools.
"I think she's thought about it a long time," Klein said of a conversation he said he had yesterday with Kennedy. He said the campaigning she did for Obama this year helped to acquaint Kennedy, who had largely avoided the public spotlight, with the rituals of retail politics.
"She's a highly determined woman, and she's clearly been thinking about her life and how to make an effective contribution," Klein said. "Everyone knows Caroline, and everyone has a great historical respect for the Kennedy family."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist, also said Kennedy called him yesterday. For Democrats, Sharpton could be an important ally, and an early call on such political matters can be a critical show of respect. If Sharpton eventually supports Kennedy, his endorsement could go a long way in helping to ease any criticism that a black candidate was passed over.
Sharpton said he disagrees with those who say she is not qualified to be senator.
Republicans, however, wasted no time in criticizing Kennedy as unqualified for the job and unfamiliar with the state.
"If anything, it makes me more determined to run," said US Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican who has already expressed interest in the seat.
Whomever Paterson appoints would have to seek election in two years.
"As far as record of achievement, I strongly believe that I'm much more qualified, much more experienced, and have an independent record," King said. Another Democrat who appears to be on Paterson's short list is Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who will not say publicly whether he's interested.