Caroline Kennedy withdraws Senate bid; Reasons in dispute
John Byrne
Published: Wednesday January 21, 2009

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Update at bottom: 'Person close to Kennedy decision: She's in race' AP reports late Wednesday evening. The New York Times, however, reported Thursday that Kennedy had told NY Gov. David Patterson that she no longer intended to be considered for a seat in the Senate.

“I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate,” Kennedy said in a statement released by a spokesperson.

Kennedy withdrew from consideration for the Senate seat in New York being vacated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), according to a person informed of her decision who spoke Thursday evening with several papers.

According to the New York Post, which reported the story earlier this evening, Ms. Kennedy withdrew her name after learning she wouldn't be picked. Ms. Kennedy was not well received by the media after her initial foray into the public spotlight when she announced her intention to seek the seat last year.

But Ms. Kennedy, through a surrogate, claimed that her reason for demurring was because of her uncle's health.

"On Wednesday she called Gov. David A. Paterson, who will choose a successor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton," the New York Times reported Thursday evening. "Her concerns about Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s deteriorating health (he was hospitalized after suffering a seizure during President Obama’s inaugural lunch on Tuesday ) prompted her decision to withdraw, this person said. Coping with her uncle’s condition was her most important priority, a situation not conducive to starting a high profile public job."

The Post said Kennedy's explanation regarding her father's health wasn't the real reason.

"Sources said the reason Paterson had decided not to tap the daughter of John F. Kennedy was her poor performances in media interviews and in in private sessions with various officials," the Post said.

"Ms. Kennedy believed that the job was hers if she would accept it, the person said," the Times continued. "A spokeswoman for Mr. Paterson had no immediate comment.

Ms. Kennedy is supposed to issue a statement shortly.

Her surprise exit puts New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as the top contender to succeed now-Secretary of State Clinton. Clinton was confirmed today by a vote of 94-2.

Gov. Paterson told the Associated Press that he hoped to fill the vacant seat by this weekend. Also in the field of those contending for Clinton's former seat, according to the Post: Long Island Rep. Steve Israel, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and teachers' union head Randi Weingarten.

'Person close to Kennedy decision: She's in race' AP reports late Wednesday evening

The Associated Press reports, "After wavering briefly, Caroline Kennedy renewed her determination Wednesday to win appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by her slain uncle, Bobby Kennedy, a person close to the decision said."

"After her surviving uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, suffered a seizure on Inauguration Day, Caroline Kennedy had misgivings about taking on the new job, the person said, speaking to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak for Kennedy," the article continues. "Earlier in the day, The New York Times and New York Post reported that Kennedy had ended her monthlong bid to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was confirmed as secretary of state.

The AP story adds, "MSNBC also reported that a person close to Kennedy denied that she was out of the running."

However, not everyone at NBC News is reporting the same thing.

"Caroline Kennedy has decided to withdraw her name from consideration for the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, according to NBC News' Mark Murray," led the story on MSNBC's website late Wednesday night.

The network notes that "the Associated Press, citing a source close to the decision, reported that Kennedy renewed her determination to win the appointment, hours after the news agency issued a bulletin that she was dropping her bid."

But the network adds, "NBC News' David Gregory also reported that a Kennedy family source told him Kennedy had not withdrawn."

Finally, The New York Times appeared to be as confused as everyone else.

"In a dramatic and confusing turn of events, Caroline Kennedy informed Gov. David A. Paterson on Wednesday that she would withdraw from consideration for the vacant Senate seat in New York, only to hours later signal that she may be interested in the seat after all," the paper reported early Thursday morning. "According to a person who spoke with her, Ms. Kennedy called the governor, who will choose a successor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to tell him that she was no longer interested in the post. Two other Democrats said they were also told Wednesday that Ms. Kennedy’s candidacy was in doubt."

The article continued, "The news appeared to catch the governor off guard, throwing the Paterson administration into confusion and setting off conflicting news media reports.By 11:30 Wednesday night, the person said, after conversations between the governor’s operation and Ms. Kennedy’s camp, Ms. Kennedy was preparing a statement to reassert her interest in the job. But a draft of the statement, which was read to The New York Times, did little to settle the contradictory reports, with less-than-forceful language that said: "I remain interested in the possibility of serving in the U.S. Senate.'"

Either way, this "in or out" situation, reminiscent of Ross Perot's presidential run years ago, will no doubt make it tougher for the New York governor to appoint Kennedy, when he makes his decision by the end of the week.

An early edition of this article incorrectly attributed Sen. Kennedy's relation to Ms. Kennedy. He is her uncle.