Kennedy Says She Kept Quiet Out of Respect

By Larry Neumeister
Associated Press
Saturday, December 27, 2008

NEW YORK, Dec. 26 -- Caroline Kennedy said Friday that if she is appointed to a seat in the U.S. Senate, she knows she will have to prove herself because of her famous background and her lack of political experience.

"I came into this thinking I have to work twice as hard as anybody else," the 51-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy said. "I am an unconventional choice."

But Kennedy said her accomplishments as a writer, mother and fundraiser for New York City public schools prepared her well for the Senate. There are "many ways to public service," she said in a half-hour interview.

Kennedy's name first surfaced as a possible replacement for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in early December after President-elect Barack Obama nominated Clinton to be secretary of state. The Senate appointment rests solely with Gov. David A. Paterson (D), who has said he will wait until the Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state before naming a successor.

Since Kennedy expressed interest in the job, she has faced sometimes sharp criticism that she cut in line ahead of politicians with more experience and has acted as if she were entitled to it because of her political lineage. More than a half-dozen other elected officials are vying for the seat, including New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and several members of Congress.

After weeks of avoiding the media, Kennedy seemed relaxed in the interview at a diner in Lower Manhattan.

She had spoken publicly about her interest in the seat only briefly, once on a swing through Upstate New York and later in Harlem with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

She said Friday that she had been reluctant to appear to be campaigning for the job because Clinton's replacement would be appointed, not elected.

"I was trying to respect the process. It is not a campaign," she said.

She also said she believes her approach has been "misinterpreted."

"If I were to be selected," she said, "I understand that public servants have to be accessible."

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