Schumer lays low on Senate appointment

December 7, 2008 2:57:52 PM PST
New York Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday he won't publicly push for Caroline Kennedy or any of the other 10 possible candidates to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate. Kennedy is interested in the seat, according to her cousin Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who said she is ready for a bigger public role and has the full support of her politically powerful family.

President-elect Barack Obama was also asked Sunday whether Caroline Kennedy would make a good senator. Obama praised her, but said he would not get involved.

"Caroline Kennedy has become one of my dearest friends and is just a wonderful American, a wonderful person. But the last thing I want to do is get involved in New York politics. I've got enough trouble in terms of Illinois politics," Obama said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Should Clinton be confirmed as Obama's secretary of state, New York Gov. David Paterson would appoint someone to fill the seat for two years. That person would have to run for election in 2010, and assuming they won, again in 2012.

At a press conference in New York, Schumer said each of the eleven potential candidates for the seat would make an excellent senator, but he won't champion any of them before Paterson's appointment.

"I have not, and do not intend to endorse a specific candidate before Gov. Paterson makes his decision," said Schumer. "I'm confident that Governor Paterson will make a careful, thought-out decision to help New York."

Schumer is the senior senator from New York, and his public position of neutrality won't stop the candidates nor their backers from seeking his help or favor, even if only behind closed doors.

"I think each one of them would make an excellent senator and an excellent partner, and I know I can work well with each of them.

I am going to respect the governor and his selection process," Schumer said.

Kennedy is by far the biggest name in the mix, but there are plenty of others: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County District Executive Tom Suozzi, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., as well as Reps. Nydia Velazquez, Carolyn Maloney, Steve Israel, Jerrold Nadler, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Brian Higgins.

Schumer refused to discuss what factors he thought the governor should consider in making the choice.

Kennedy is the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and a niece of brothers Edward and Robert. Robert Kennedy held the New York seat from 1965 until his assassination in 1968. Edward Kennedy has been a senator from Massachusetts since 1963 and still uses the old Senate desk that Caroline's father used as a senator from Massachusetts before he won the presidency in 1960.

As a prominent member of the Kennedy clan, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg could overshadow other New York politicians hoping to be Paterson's choice, but she also has sought to lead a very private life within such a famous family.

The governor has said he is in no rush to make a decision.