Democratic officials resisting appointment of Kennedy to Senate

The Baltimore Sun

ALBANY, N.Y. - Resistance is emerging among Democratic officials against Caroline Kennedy as she pursues Hillary Clinton's seat in the U.S. Senate, with Gov. David A. Paterson bristling over suggestions that her selection is inevitable, according to his advisers, and other leading Democrats concerned that she is too beholden to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The governor is frustrated and chagrined, the advisers said, because he believes that he extended Kennedy the chance to demonstrate her qualifications but that her operatives have exploited the opportunity to convey a sense that she is all but appointed already. He views this as an attempt to box him in, the advisers said.

"You have people going around saying, 'Oh yeah, it's a done deal,' " said one of the advisers, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the selection process and did not want to anger the governor. "The quickest way to not get something you want is to step into somebody's face."

The governor's frustration follows reports last week that Kevin Sheekey, a top deputy for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who has been advising Kennedy, had called a labor leader and told him that Kennedy was going to be senator, "so get on board now," and that a member of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's staff was helping Caroline Kennedy reach out to unions.

It was not clear on Tuesday whether the governor's reaction would seriously damage Kennedy's chances to win the appointment or if it merely reflected Paterson's desire to regain control of the selection process after Kennedy's very public political debut.

But Kennedy's ties to Bloomberg's political team and her waffling over whether she would support a Democrat in next year's mayoral race appear to be angering some Democrats. On Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver became the most senior elected official in the state to say that Paterson should not select Kennedy to the Senate seat.

"If I were the governor, I would look and question whether this is the appointment I would want to make, whether her first obligation might be to the mayor of the city of New York rather than the governor who would be appointing her," Silver said during an interview on WGDJ, an Albany radio station.

Silver has long had a testy relationship with Bloomberg, fueled by battles over mayoral initiatives like congestion pricing.

A spokeswoman for Kennedy declined to comment. Kennedy's advisers, speaking anonymously because they did not want to inflame the situation further, rejected any suggestion that they had portrayed her selection as inevitable and insisted that they had been respectful of the governor's desire for a decorous selection process.

The criticism over her bid has also frustrated those advisers, who feel that Kennedy has been whiplashed by assertions that she is at once protected and presumptuous. Both the governor and Kennedy's advisers appear to have been thrown, in part, by Kennedy's personal celebrity.

Kennedy made dozens of calls to elected officials and other leaders to build interest in her candidacy, and many of those with whom she spoke call her thoughtful and self-effacing.

But her refusal to say during the weekend whether she would back a Democratic candidate next year, when Bloomberg will seek re-election as an independent, set off intense reaction among some in the party.

A follow-up statement - in which her spokesman, Stefan Friedman, said that Kennedy "fully intends to support the Democratic nominee" - did not assuage those concerns.

Moreover, her ties to Bloomberg's operatives have aroused suspicions among Democrats and labor officials that she would be beholden to the mayor. Kennedy hired the consulting firm Knickerbocker SKD, which includes Bloomberg as one of its biggest clients.

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