Kennedy: I'll Have to Work 'Twice as Hard' If Picked for Senate

Paterson says he'll decide on Senate appointment after Clinton steps down.

December 26, 2008, 2:54 PM

Dec. 26, 2008 -- Caroline Kennedy said in an interview today that if she's appointed to the Senate, she'll have to work "twice as hard" as anybody else to prove herself. Considering her efforts so far to get the appointment, it's easy to see why she'd feel that way.

It's bad enough to have to run around places like Buffalo and Syracuse in December, but Kennedy is getting the full New York treatment. And finding that running for political office in New York isn't easy -- even when your name is Kennedy and you only need one person's vote to win.

That one person, of course, is New York Gov. David Paterson, who can appoint anybody he wants to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Paterson says he won't make up his mind until after Clinton steps down, and that won't happen until she's confirmed as secretary of state, which would probably be in mid-January.

When a reporter referred to Kennedy as "the front-runner" earlier this week, Paterson tartly shot back, "How is she the front-runner?"

Paterson's aides say the governor isn't bluffing; despite the frenzied speculation around Kennedy, he truly hasn't made up his mind.

"There is no front-runner," a senior aide to Paterson told ABC News today. "He is looking at the potential candidates all on their own merit. There is no big dog in this race."

Paterson seems amused by all the speculation. "This whole thing sounds more like the prelude to a high school musical than the choosing of a senator," he told reporters earlier this week.

It's actually an appointment, not a race, but you wouldn't know it by watching Kennedy's movements around the state over the past couple weeks. She's visited with upstate mayors, dined with the Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's in Harlem, talked to labor leaders and hired a team of political strategists.

But if it's a campaign, it hasn't exactly been a smooth one. Some of the first images of candidate Caroline were of her briskly walking away from the TV cameras as reporters shouted questions. Then she refused to disclose basic information about her personal finances -- the kind of stuff she will be required to disclose if she becomes a senator.

Kennedy says she'll disclose everything that is required if she gets appointed. She also promises to be more accessible.

"If I were to be selected," she told the Associated Press, "I understand that public servants have to be accessible."

All of this, of course, has played well with the New York news media.

Caroline Kennedy Becomes Focus of N.Y Media

There is perhaps no media market that delights more in giving its political figures a tough time than New York's. Over the years, Kennedy has gotten largely reverential coverage in the New York newspapers. No more.

The New York Daily News, for example, did a little digging through the City Board of Elections files and found that Kennedy had failed to vote in about half of the elections in New York.

"Caroline Kennedy wants to be the next senator for New York," the Daily News quipped, "but her voting record is already spotty." Most of those missed votes were in primary elections. It turns out, Kennedy didn't even vote in the hotly contested 2002 gubernatorial primary, when her former cousin-in-law Andrew Cuomo lost to Carl McCall.

And although the famously private Kennedy did not want to disclose financial information, the Daily News did a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on public records and estimated that she is worth about $100 million.

Maybe she hasn't voted much, but surely she has used some of that money to support the New York Democrats financially, right? Actually, the Daily News found that she has made only one donation to a political candidate -- $1,000 to City Council President Christine Quinn.

Kennedy's lack of involvement in New York Democratic party politics over the years may help explain why she has taken some hits from Democrats, like Reps. Anthony Weiner and Gary Ackerman.

"I don't know what Caroline Kennedy's qualifications are. Except that she has name recognition, but so does J.Lo," Ackerman said when Kennedy first started to express interest in the Senate seat.

Kennedy has been lavished with praise by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but even that has a downside. Bloomberg is a former Republican (now Independent) who has infuriated New York's top Democrats by maneuvering to run for a third term as mayor.

There have even been fictional darts thrown at Kennedy.

On Monday, The New York Times published a letter to the editor purportedly from the mayor of Paris calling Kennedy's Senate bid "appalling," adding, "What title has Ms. Kennedy to pretend to Hillary Clinton's seat? We French can only see a dynastic move of the vanishing Kennedy clan in the very country of the Bill of Rights." But the writer was not the mayor of Paris and The New York Times had to publish an embarrassing correction the next day.

The letter wasn't real, but the challenges of being a New York politician are. Kennedy might just end up wondering why she wanted to do this in the first place.

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