JFK's daughter abandons dream of taking Clinton's seat in the Senate

Kennedy blames personal reasons but campaign had been dogged by problems
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The Independent US

The saga of who should replace Hillary Clinton as the junior senator from New York has once more gone off the rails after the favourite contender, Caroline Kennedy, abruptly announced that she was no longer in the running.

The decision by the daughter of John F Kennedy seemed to catch everyone by surprise, not least the Governor of New York, David Paterson, who is responsible for filling the seat vacated by Mrs Clinton, who was confirmed as the US Secretary of State on Wednesday.

It was reported last night that Ms Kennedy had fallen foul of President Barack Obama's strict new vetoing procedures and had problems involving taxes and household staff.

The circumstances of Ms Kennedy's withdrawal were chaotic. It appears she contacted Mr Paterson on Wednesday to convey her decision but he suggested she was being too hasty. Her aides had vigorously denied reports at the same time that she was quitting.

Ms Kennedy, 51, finally issued a statement yesterday. "I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate," it said. Ms Kennedy's uncle Ted Kennedy suffered a seizure on Inauguration Day but sources said this was not the reason she had withdrawn. He has been released from hospital. Also up for debate is whether Mr Paterson had settled on Ms Kennedy for the job or had begun to think about someone else. That spurred speculation that Ms Kennedy had invented "personal reasons" to avoid the embarrassment of being passed over. Family friends rejected this. "He was offering her the seat," one confidant said. "There's no doubt about that."

The notion that Ms Kennedy could follow her uncle Robert Kennedy into a New York senate seat was first entertained soon after Mr Obama was elected President and tapped Mrs Clinton as his top diplomat. It seemed both thrilling and preposterous. Ms Kennedy had the right name and seemed competent but had no experience of the ordinary man or of law-making.

Other contenders for the seat would have experienced a new burst of hope on hearing the news of Ms Kennedy's withdrawal, in particular Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general. His father, Mario Cuomo, was governor of New York and a possible presidential candidate. Polls show most New Yorkers favour him for the job.

Mr Paterson, who may make his decision known as early as this morning, has indicated he would like to appoint a woman. Possible contenders include Kirsten Gillibrand, a second-term member of the House of Representatives, and Carolyn Maloney, who is also a congresswoman. Mr Paterson is also known to have sought information on the Mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown.

Ms Kennedy has been press-shy for most of her life. In interviews on her political ambitions, she was lampooned for giving rambling answers and punctuating her thoughts with "you-knows".