Late tonight, Caroline Kennedy confirmed that she was withdrawing from consideration for the vacant U.S. Senate seat in New York, startling the New York political world after weeks in which she was considered a top contender for the post.
Earlier today Kennedy called Gov. David Paterson, who will choose a successor to former Sen. Hillary Clinton, to inform him that she was no longer interested in the post.
Late tonight she issued this simple-but-puzzling one-sentence statement:
“I informed Gov. Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate.”
And that was that!
A person told of her decision said that Kennedy’s concerns about the health of her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who suffers from brain cancer and was hospitalized after suffering a seizure Tuesday, prompted her to withdraw.
Others close to Kennedy felt that Sen. Kennedy’s deteriorating health, evidenced by his collapse yesterday, would all but force Gov. Paterson’s hand in appointing Caroline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton’s now-vacant senate seat.
Kennedy believed that the job was hers if she would accept it, the person said, but aides to Paterson would not comment on whether that was true.
Kennedy’s sudden withdrawl shocked the media pundits, who have been predicting her as a shoo-in for the seat. Apparently, they’re not the only ones who are stunned.
The news appeared to catch the governor off guard, throwing the Paterson administration into confusion and setting off conflicting news media reports. After frantic talks between the governor’s operation and Kennedy’s camp this evening, Kennedy appeared to waver on whether to withdraw, and was preparing a statement reasserting her interest in the job. But at about midnight, she decided to make clear she was taking her name out of consideration and released the statement saying so.
The timing is certainly curious, coming on the same day of Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as secretary of state.
No further clarification was given as to the nature of Kennedy’s “personal reasons” for withdrawl, and she declined to be interviewed.
Kennedy’s surprise move comes nearly two months after she, along with several members of Congress and leading political officials, began lobbying the governor for the coveted Senate seat. She attracted relentless attention and was viewed by many as the most likely choice for Paterson, given her national stature and ties to the incoming Obama administration.
“I’m surprised, I’m very surprised,” said Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, a friend of the governor’s who met with Kennedy in his Harlem office. He added: “I had just met with her last week and she told me she was in and ready, willing and able.”
Kennedy had gained the support of some powerful backers in the state, including several labor officials and a top aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Kevin Sheekey.
But her pursuit of the seat also set off resistance, with some local Democratic officials suggesting it smacked of entitlement, and polls showing voters preferring Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for the position.
Kennedy, 51, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, has never served in public office.
In early December, her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., also withdrew his name for consideration. Many in New York political circles considered him the first (and perhaps most obvious) choice to fill the senate seat once held by his father. (Robert F. Kennedy was the junior senator from 1964 until his assassination in 1968.)
After so much heavy campaigning on Caroline’s part, tonight’s news is both shocking and disappointing to longtime Kennedy supporters. With Ted Kennedy’s terminal illness as a factor, it is apparent that he most likely will be unable to serve out the remainder of his term. Many of us desperately hoped to see another Kennedy in the United States Senate, be it RFK Jr. or Caroline, working for the people of New York state. Sadly, that’s not gonna happen.
Perhaps there is still hope, depending on who is chosen to fill Teddy’s seat in Massachusetts when that unfortunate time comes.