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Kennedy and N.Y. Governor Discuss Clinton's Senate Seat

By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 7, 2008

Caroline Kennedy, a scion of the most famous family in American politics, has spoken by phone with New York Gov. David A. Paterson (D) about the Senate seat that would open with the confirmation of Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a cousin of Caroline Kennedy, confirmed to the Associated Press late Friday that she was "interested" in the seat, but national party operatives cautioned that the process of picking a replacement for Clinton remains in its early stages.

One New York political insider suggested that the revelation of Kennedy's interest in the seat is designed to keep New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, the current front-runner, from winning the appointment. "In their mind [this] freezes the selection process," the source said. "They also thought that by doing this, it enhances Caroline's stature in case she ultimately decides to join Obama administration."

Kennedy's interest in the Senate seat presents a marked contrast to her public life up to now, which has been defined by her avoidance of the spotlight. During the campaign of President-elect Barack Obama, however, Kennedy emerged as a more high-profile player -- endorsing Obama in a New York Times editorial during the primary season and then participating in the selection of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) as the Democratic nominee's running mate.

Kennedy, the daughter of former president John F. Kennedy and niece of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, is the most high-profile name being mentioned as a replacement for Clinton. Clinton is expected to resign her seat next month when, and if, she is confirmed as the nation's top diplomat.

Among the other potential appointees -- in addition to Cuomo, who is divorced from Caroline Kennedy's cousin Kerry -- are Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand, Steve Israel, Brian Higgins, Jerrold Nadler, Gregory W. Meeks, Nydia M. Velázquez and Carolyn B. Maloney; Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi; and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

Paterson has given few clues about New York's next senator.

"The governor has not yet reached out to any potential candidates," Paterson spokesman Errol Cockfield told the AP. "He has been approached by several candidates. Any discussions related to that selection are private, and the governor will not comment about speculation before a decision is made."

The person Paterson selects will run in a 2010 special election as well as a 2012 contest for a full six-year term. So the governor is almost certain to pick a candidate who has the statewide name recognition and fundraising ability to keep the seat in Democratic hands.

Staff writer Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.

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