Paterson: Cuomo possible Senate replacement

January 20, 2009 2:45:36 PM PST
Gov. David Paterson acknowledged Tuesday that he is considering Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat about to be vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The two Democrats had refused since early December to say if Cuomo is in the running, even as the latest polls show New Yorkers narrowly favor him over Caroline Kennedy.

"He has outstanding qualities and is someone I am considering," Paterson told CBS News at an interview during the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

He also noted that he is considering lesser known candidates as well. Obama nominated Clinton to be his secretary of state, and she is expected to be confirmed in a roll call vote Wednesday.

Her resignation from the Senate is expected after that. Paterson insisted again Tuesday that he hasn't made a decision but plans to announce his choice by the weekend.

Paterson has been criticized by good-government groups for a secretive selection process that he defends as essential to making the best choice without regard to traditional campaigning. Paterson and Cuomo were also criticized for refusing to say whether Cuomo was interested in the Senate seat.

Paterson has said their conversations were confidential under attorney-client privilege, a legal view questioned by experts in recent interviews with The Associated Press. Cuomo said he would allow only Paterson to divulge those discussions because it was the governor's process.

Kennedy was an early front-runner when she took a short public tour upstate and sat for press interviews in December. But she faltered answering some questions and was mocked nationwide for her frequent use of "you know" and "um."

"I was very impressed by her in our conversation. I found her to be very hardworking, very forthright. And she had some faux pas with the media when she first started, as have a number of people who have gone on to be outstanding in their service," Paterson said. "So I am weighing her ability and her acumen and what she might be able to do in New York, more than that, and also, in comparison with some rather stiff competition in New York."

Among the other hopefuls are three members of the U.S. House: Carolyn Maloney of New York City, Kirsten Gillibrand of the Hudson Valley-Albany, and Steve Israel of Long Island. Also in the mix are Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Buffalo-area Rep. Brian Higgins.

Cuomo, popular in his first term as attorney general, was considered a likely contender by several Democrats because his appointment would head off a potential primary for governor against Paterson in 2010. Cuomo ran a 2002 primary against then-Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who went on to lose his bid to be New York's first black governor when Republican Gov. George Pataki won his third term.

"He's told me he doesn't want to run against me," Paterson said of his private conversations with Cuomo.

With that statement, Paterson added a new element to Albany's political speculation because Cuomo has never ruled out a run for governor in 2010.

Cuomo declined through a spokesman to comment Tuesday.