Caroline Kennedy Seeks N.Y. Senate Seat

Kennedy will ask for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.

Dec. 15, 2008— -- After weeks of speculation and whispers, Caroline Kennedy made it known that she would like New York Gov. David Paterson to appoint her to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's vacated Senate seat.

"She's interested in the position," Paterson said. "She'd like at some point to sit down and tell me what she thinks her qualifications are."

Americans have been saying "Senator Kennedy" for 55 years. But the always reserved Caroline Kennedy has never been seen as a shoo-in for the family business.

"She has never sought the spotlight, never been overtly political until this year," said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian.

During the election, Kennedy, a 51-year-old New Yorker, shed her predilection for privacy, and dove headfirst into politics, endorsing President-elect Barack Obama early in the campaign.

"We are all in this together and we each have something to contribute to our country that has given us so much," Kennedy said, speaking at the Democratic convention. "I'd never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now: Barack Obama."

She then assumed a leadership role, running Obama's vice presidential selection process.

The seat Kennedy is seeking was the very one held by her uncle Robert Kennedy more than 40 years ago, from 1965 until his 1968 assassination. It would allow her to continue the work of her other uncle, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, and extend the run of the Kennedys, who have served in the Senate for more than half a century.

Political leaders, from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the Rev. Al Sharpton, have praised Caroline Kennedy, but others are not embracing the idea.

Kennedy Interest Puts Pressure on Gov. Paterson

Last week, New York Rep. Gary Ackerman told a radio show, "I don't know what Caroline Kennedy's qualifications are, except that she has name recognition -- but so does J.Lo."

While Kennedy's professional career has included education and charity work, some say she does not have the experience for these tough economic times.

"It is not clear what Caroline Kennedy brings to the table. She is an emblem," said Fred Siegel, historian and professor at Cooper Union College.

But Kennedy's very public declaration of interest proves she knows how to play politics with Paterson.

"This puts tremendous pressure on him," Siegel said, to choose the last surviving child of John F. Kennedy.

Interest from the former president's daughter and support from such a high-profile family makes it difficult for Paterson to say no to the prominent contender over other leading candidates, according to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Nassau County Chief Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, among others, are said to be in the running, as well as other state representatives.

Hillary Clinton will not resign her seat until she is confirmed as secretary of state in late January or even February, leaving more time for this Senate drama to play out.

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