MICHELE NORRIS, host:
New York state has been abuzz with speculation about just who might fill Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat. Clinton was confirmed yesterday as secretary of state. But David Paterson, the Democratic governor of New York, has yet to name a successor. He's expected to do so very soon. Caroline Kennedy was said to be a top contender, but word came last night that she was dropping out. She cited personal reasons.
The New York Times is now reporting that problems involving taxes and a household employee surfaced during her vetting. And Nick Confessore of the New York Times broke that story, and he joins us now. Nick, you've been reporting this story for days now. Bring us up to speed on what you know about just what derailed Caroline Kennedy's bid.
Mr. NICK CONFESSORE (Reporter, New York Times): Well, there's actually a dispute about that, and that's where we are right now. You have the governor's camp and Caroline's camp offering similar, but importantly different accounts of exactly what went down. On the governor's side, you have news today from people in his circle saying that during the vetting process for this job, information turned up about Caroline Kennedy's household employees and possibly taxes. That these accounted for the governor's desire to decide to not pick her and - which is where we are now.
Now, when you talk to people in her camp what they say is, look, there are problems along those lines, but they came out in the questionnaire that was submitted on January 8th by all the candidates, that the governor's known all this for weeks. This is not new - that, in fact, a totally different personal reason, which is as of yet undisclosed, not related to her uncle being ill, is the real reason why she took herself out of the running.
So you have the governor's people sort of saying that it was his decision that he decided not to pick her. You have people in her camp saying he had all but picked her, and that they were even planning a press conference, and he'd all but decided it was her. And then what happened yesterday is a big mess.
NORRIS: Well, regardless of who actually pulled the plug, it appears that she is now out of the running. So who is still on Governor Paterson's short list? Who are the other contenders for the seat now?
Mr. CONFESSORE: People who are still on the short list - Kirsten Gillibrand is a representative from New York from a district outside the capital region, outside Albany here. She's on everybody's short list. The rest of the short list seems to evolve depending on who's making it.
Steve Israel is a congressman from Suffolk County in New York. He was very active in the 2008 congressional campaigns. He's a good fundraiser. He's well liked by other members. Caroline Maloney is a congresswoman from Manhattan who has been campaigning extremely aggressively for this job, probably as aggressively as Caroline Kennedy had been. You have Tom Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, I would say is on the short list. And you have a bunch of other people who probably aren't on the short list, but you can tell that Kirsten Gillibrand's on the short list by the fact that everybody is firing bazookas at her right now.
NORRIS: Does David Paterson have a particular affinity for any one of these people?
Mr. CONFESSORE: He has - he has very carefully mentioned each of them in turn as exceptional in the last two weeks, and we have a source as you may have seen in our story...
NORRIS: So there's a Lake Wobegon effect with these candidates, I guess.
Mr. .CONFESSORE: Exactly, exactly they're all above average and, you know, a person with ties to Paterson, and this is denied by his spokesman - told us that in fact he had decided on Kennedy last week, but he had decided to use a few days to spread some misdirection and keep the suspense up, which is perhaps, if you buy that person's story, that is perhaps why every couple of days he would mention a new person in an interview or at a press availability. Oh, Kirsten Gillibrand's really great. Steve Israel is really great. He would do this in turn so it makes you wonder really who is great.
NORRIS: And a decision is expected by the end of this week. Is that right, Nick?
Mr. CONFESSORE: Yes, we are now hearing that in fact there will be a news conference tomorrow, Friday.
NORRIS: Thank you so much. That's Nick Confessore of the New York Times. Thanks, Nick.
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