ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Caroline Kennedy withdrew her Senate bid because of a personal matter unrelated to her ill uncle, rejecting the governor’s attempt to get her to reconsider, a person who worked closely with her said Thursday.
Kennedy discussed withdrawing from the race with Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday, and Paterson asked her to reconsider for 24 hours, the person said.
But by 11 p.m. Wednesday, the associate said, Kennedy decided she couldn’t take the job if appointed, and she issued a statement shortly after midnight saying she was withdrawing.
Kennedy did not decide to bow out because her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, suffered a seizure during an inaugural luncheon Tuesday, the person said. The 76-year-old Massachusetts senator was diagnosed in May with an aggressive type of brain tumor.
The person wasn’t authorized to disclose the conversation between Kennedy and the governor and spoke on condition of anonymity. The person would give no other details about the personal matter.
Kennedy’s one-sentence statement ended hours of uncertainty as she appeared to waver.
“I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate.”
There was no comment from Paterson.
Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of President John Kennedy, emerged as a front-runner to replace Clinton. But there were questions about her experience and her reluctance to answer questions about her finances.
The seat was once held by Caroline Kennedy’s slain uncle, Bobby Kennedy, and her initial announcement that she wanted to be considered was met with both excitement from supporters and skepticism from those who maintained that she was simply trading on her famous name to get into public office.
With no official explanations from the governor or from Kennedy, political observers were still wondering whether she bowed out on her own, or whether the governor had decided to pick someone else.
Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College, called Kennedy’s withdrawal “bizarre and ultimately embarrassing” to her and Paterson.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith, the Democratic majority leader in Albany, said Thursday that Paterson told him he still plans to announce a Senate appointment by Saturday.
Kennedy’s decision boosted the chances of several other candidates, including Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who surpassed Kennedy in statewide polls last week. Cuomo had no comment Thursday.
Paterson has said Cuomo had outstanding credentials for the job. Cuomo was the housing secretary under President Bill Clinton. Cuomo was elected attorney general in 2006 and has since led national reforms in the student loan industry and had a role in reining in corporate spending on Wall Street.
Cuomo is also the most popular elected politician in New York in polls – higher than Paterson, whose approval rating, while still high, has been slipping.
Paterson has asked potential candidates to respond to a 28-page questionnaires. The forms ask about personal finances and other background issues, many of which Kennedy has long shielded from the public.
Kennedy, an author, lawyer and fundraiser for New York City schools, has long guarded her privacy, and the questionnaires were expected to include some closely guarded Kennedy financial data. Paterson had said he thought the candidates’ responses would be confidential because it was his personal request that they fill them out.
But the state’s open-government expert and good-government groups told the AP that once the forms were written and submitted to the governor at least some of the responses would be subject to public review under the state Freedom of Information Law.
Kennedy jumped to the top of statewide polls in early December, but her public support waned following a brief upstate tour and a few press interviews.
She was criticized as reluctant to answer questions, and her knowledge of New York and its issues were suspect. She was also mocked nationwide for her frequent use of “you know” and “um” in interviews and was branded a lackluster campaigner.
The Kennedy reports came hours after Rep. Carolyn Maloney, some Democrats’ top choice, was named chair of the Joint Economic Committee in Congress. That’s a significant move because Paterson had made it clear the next senator’s top job should be to help land a federal stimulus package to help New York out of its historic fiscal crisis.