After striving most of her life to duck the glare that she inherited as the child of an American political dynasty, Caroline Kennedy has decided to pursue selection for the Senate seat for New York that will be vacated by Hillary Clinton when she becomes Secretary of State in January.
While the name of Ms Kennedy, the daughter of the slain President John F Kennedy, has been circulating for weeks as a possible contender for the soon-to-be empty slot, many had imagined that her past attachment to a life of quiet and privacy would trump whatever political ambition she carries. That she has come off the fence on the side of public service – and political celebrity – was being reported by The New York Times. The newspaper said that she would relay her decision to seek the Senate job to the governor of New York, David Patterson, who is responsible for selecting a successor to Mrs Clinton.
Her quest will brim with historical symbolism and nostalgia. Her uncle, Robert F Kennedy served as a senator from New York before seeking the US presidency and then also falling before an assassin's bullet. It also opens the prospect that the Empire State will be losing one female figure of considerable stature in the Senate only to have her replaced by another one.
For Mr Patterson, who himself rose unexpectedly to the office of governor after his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned under a cloud after a sexual indiscretion earlier this year, her formal entry into the competition may be politically hazardous. While Ms Kennedy may be famous and generally respected, she hardly comes to the interviewing table with a resume packed with political experience.
Nor will everyone else in the New York political firmament be thrilled. Among those with something to lose will be the others hoping to catch Mr Patterson's eye and take the job, including the current state attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, who is the son of the former New York governor Mario Cuomo, and a few lesser known New York congressmen and women.
It will also sound alarm bells for Charles Schumer, who as the senior senator from New York has already had to spend years trying to escape the celebrity shadow of a newcomer from his state. It had been his fervent hope that upon the departure of Mrs Clinton, he would again attract the kind of media attention that is rightfully his.
That may not happen if a Kennedy slips into the office next door. For most of her adult life, Ms Kennedy, 51, has occupied herself with raising her own family and running various philanthropic causes and institutions associated with her family, notably the John F Kennedy Library in Boston. She wore a more overtly political mantle this summer, however, when Mr Obama appointed her to the panel vetting possible candidates for the running-mate slot.
A long-time resident of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Ms Kennedy's role in the Obama campaign seemed less surprising after her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, stepped forward at a crucial moment in the primaries to endorse Mr Obama over Mrs Clinton. After he later became ill with a brain tumour, his niece was given a primetime spot at the Democratic Convention in Denver to pay him tribute – a speech which ended, unexpectedly, with the so-called Lion of the Senate taking the stage. Now, it seems, if Mr Patterson obliges, she could join her uncle in turning up for work every day on Capitol Hill.
The governor has the power to fill the seat for two years until the end of 2010, when voters have the next chance to make their own choice.Reuse content