Both the New York Post and New York Times are reporting this evening that Caroline Kennedy has told New York Governor David Paterson that she does not want to be considered to fill the now-vacant seat of Hillary Clinton in the United States Senate. (UPDATE: The New York Post, which initially reported the Kennedy withdrew citing “personal reasons,” is now saying she did it “after learning that Gov. David Paterson wasn’t going to choose her.”)
The news is a startling development, coming as it does within hours of Clinton’s confirmation as Secretary of State and her resulting resignation from the Senate. The New York Times reports that Caroline Kennedy’s concern for her uncle’s health prompted the decision. Senator Ted Kennedy, who is suffering from brain cancer, was hospitalized yesterday after suffering a seizure at a Capitol lunch in honor of the newly inaugurated President. However, Ted Kennedy was released from the hospital today, and it is not clear that there has been any change in the grim prognosis he received when his cancer was first diagnosed last May.
Caroline Kennedy had seemed to have a lock on the Senate appointment when she first signaled her interest last month. It was thought that her famous last name alone would give her an edge in a Senate seat where she would have to run twice in the next four years–first in a 2010 special election, and then when the term expires in 2012–and could have to raise as much as $100 million. However, her initial round of media interviews and public appearances proved her to be an unsteady politician. Recent polling has suggested that New Yorkers would prefer their Attorney General Andrew Cuomo–himself a member of a famous political dynasty, and a former cousin-in-law of Caroline Kennedy.
In this election, however, there is only one voter: Governor Paterson, who has the sole power to appoint Clinton’s successor. Although Paterson initially seemed enthusiastic about her prospects, my colleague Mark Halperin reports that the Governor has been frustrated with her lack of political acumen — and failure to take his private advice about how she should conduct herself. Some of his associates believe he came to think that she wouldn’t be that good a person to share the ballot with in 2010.
UPDATE: There is much confusion tonight, as Kennedy’s allies try to tamp this story down. And still the reports continue. I have been unable to rouse her spokesman by email, and his voicemailbox is full. My assumption is that this story is coming from Paterson’s team. But at this point, I throw up my hands.
This statement from Caroline Kennedy hit my emailbox at 12:07 a.m.:
“I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am
withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate.”