Caroline Kennedy Seeks Clinton Seat

Political Junkie

Caroline Kennedy has reportedly told New York Gov. David Paterson she wants to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. Nicholas Confessore, a reporter for The New York Times who is following the story, offers his insight.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. And we begin this half hour with the news that another member of the Kennedy family might be heading toward the U.S. Senate. Caroline Kennedy wants to fill the Senate seat that Hillary Clinton would vacate if Clinton is confirmed as secretary of state. New York Governor David Paterson confirmed for NPR that Kennedy has stated her interest in that seat. It is the same seat once held by Caroline Kennedy's uncle, Robert F. Kennedy. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times broke the story online today, and he joins us now. Nick, is this a surprise that she's interested in this seat?

Mr. NICHOLAS CONFESSORE (Reporter, New York Times): It's only a surprise if you think of her history as a public figure, which is to say she didn't have much of a history as a public figure. This is somebody who has carefully rationed out her involvement or her presence in the limelight, I should say. You could see a hint maybe that that was changing when she campaigned for Barack Obama in the past year for president. And that seems to have given her a bit of a taste for what it might be like to slip into a role more conventional for a Kennedy, which is elected office.

NORRIS: Now, she's from a dynastic political family. Her name, as you know, it is famous. But she's famously private. She's never held elective office. What are her qualifications for the job?

Mr. CONFESSORE: Well, if you talk to people who support her, people say, you know, she has been a lawyer, she has written books on constitutional matters. She's shown she can fundraise in her efforts to raise money for the New York City public schools. People who know her say she's smart, she's gritty, and she's ready to spend, you know, days and days in Chautauqua County and Syracuse and Rochester and all the places upstate where a serious candidate for statewide office has to go to get their name out - even a Kennedy - and win the support of people up there.

NORRIS: Now, you're talking about candidate. In this case, she would be appointed, if this were to happen, appointed by the New York Governor, but does she have the interest or the taste for running for office as a candidate moving through all those counties you mentioned?

Mr. CONFESSORE: Well, I think she's going to have to, you know, campaign, in effect, for the next month, in one sense. And I suspect that will include some things that look like a conventional campaign. But then again, she's going to have to run in 2010 to win the right to fill out the remainder of Senator Clinton's term. And then she'll have to run again in 2012 to win a term of her own. So she actually has two statewide office - sorry, two statewide campaigns facing her in over the course of two years. That's a lot of work. That's a lot of campaigning.

NORRIS: Who else is interested in the position?

Mr. CONFESSORE: Well, the question is who else is not interested in the position. A healthy cross-section of the congressional delegation has expressed some interest. Some of them have even campaigned openly or hired consulting firms to help them win the appointment. You have Carol Maloney from Manhattan. You have Tom Suozzi, the county executive of Nassau County, who has been a statewide candidate before.

He ran against Eliot Spitzer, and people said of him at the time he would be a fantastic statewide candidate in any other year, except he ran the primary against Eliot Spitzer. And of course, you have the possibility of Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general and, of course, an ex-in-law. It's not entirely sure if he wants to run. He said he hasn't. But, you know, I think people are wondering if he does want it.

NORRIS: That list is long, perhaps even longer than that, but we'll have to leave it at that. New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore, thanks so much.

Mr. CONFESSORE: Thanks a lot.

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