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Resistance to Kennedy grows among Democrats

/ Source: The New York Times

Resistance is emerging among Democratic officials against Caroline Kennedy as she pursues Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seat in the United States 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 Ms. 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 to Mr. Bloomberg who has been advising Ms. Kennedy, had called a labor leader and told him that Ms. Kennedy was going to be senator, “so get on board now,” and that a member of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s staff was helping Ms. Kennedy reach out to unions.

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

But Ms. Kennedy’s ties to Mr. 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, Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, became the most senior elected official in the state to say that that Mr. Paterson should not select Ms. 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," Mr. Silver said during an interview on WGDJ, an Albany radio station.

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

A spokeswoman for Ms. Kennedy declined to comment. Ms. 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.

Overwhelming personal celebrity
The criticism over her bid has also frustrated those advisers, who feel that Ms. Kennedy has been whiplashed by assertions that she is at once protected and presumptuous.

Both the governor and Ms. Kennedy’s advisers appear to have been thrown, in part, by Ms. Kennedy’s overwhelming personal celebrity.

Ms. 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 over the weekend whether she would back a Democratic candidate next year, when Mr. 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 Ms. Kennedy “fully intends to support the Democratic nominee” — did not assuage those concerns.

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

Those suspicions appeared to be compounded by a comment Mr. Bloomberg made on Monday defending Ms. Kennedy and suggesting that, though the choice was Mr. Paterson’s, the governor should move quickly to select a replacement for Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to be confirmed next month as secretary of state.

“We didn’t tell him to hurry up on term limits,” said another Paterson adviser, referring to Mr. Bloomberg’s move this fall in which he marshaled votes on the City Council to nullify a city referendum so that he could run for another term.

In a conference call on Tuesday, Mr. Paterson, who was traveling, declined to address Mr. Silver’s or Mr. Bloomberg’s comments. But he reiterated that he had made no selection and would not do so until Mrs. Clinton was confirmed.

“What I’m trying to keep away from is lobbying, coercion and distracting information,” he said. He added later: “I don’t feel rushed by any of this process. I have said from the very beginning what I thought the right way to do this would be.”

Mr. Silver also praised several other potential appointees to the Senate seat, including Andrew M. Cuomo, the attorney general. Should Mr. Paterson pick Mr. Cuomo, the Legislature would be responsible for choosing his successor, and Mr. Silver would have by far the most influence over that choice.

A spokesman for Mr. Silver declined to say whether the speaker had consulted with Mr. Paterson before speaking publicly about Ms. Kennedy.

Even some of Ms. Kennedy’s potential rivals for the seat expressed some sympathy for her quandary.

“Any true Democrat loves Caroline Kennedy,” said Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, who has said he is also interested in the Senate appointment. “I think the way that her handlers and strategists are pushing her and trying to box in the governor is damaging the reputation of someone that we all care about.”

This story, Resistance to Kennedy Grows Among Democrats, originally appeared in the New York Times.