Governor David Paterson said on Friday that he was refraining from making a decision on who should fill New York's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, in part because he has not interviewed all the potential candidates yet. He acknowledged that he had yet to discuss the matter with the state's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo.
In an interview with the local Fox News station, Paterson defended the drawn-out process by which he has tried to come to a decision on a Senate appointment to replace Hillary Clinton. He cited Bill Richardson's withdrawal as Commerce Secretary nominee as a reason for not taking quick action -- the idea being that Clinton's nomination is not yet a done deal, and she could be on her way back to the Senate.
Paterson also said that it was his preference for the public to choose the Senate replacement rather than deciding the issue by gubernatorial appointment.
"The best thing about this process is that the public will get to review this choice in 2010," he said. "In the end, the public will make the final decision. I wish the public were making the decision right now. In the interim sense, I will make the choice and the public will decide."
But the majority of attention was paid to Caroline Kennedy, reported to be the front-runner for the post but burned by a rocky roll-out. Paterson said that President-elect Barack Obama had not called him on Kennedy's behalf, and he defended the former first daughter's uneven public appearances.
"I can see the a person who wasn't in public service would have a little stage fright, and would be struggling a little trouble giving public interviews. Some of us who have been here 20 years struggle with the media," he said. "The issue is that all of the candidates in the race -- and, by the way, there are other candidates in the race if you have been following along -- they have their relative strengths and areas where they aren't so strong."
It is the prediction of many New York politicos that Paterson's mind is still not made up. The Governor is known for last-minute unpredictability. An aide to Cuomo has reportedly tried to slow down Kennedy's bid. But the idea that Cuomo could come in and take the Senate seat after Kennedy has campaigned so publicly for the post should be treated with some caution. One well-connected Democrat puts it bluntly: at this point, Cuomo can't afford to be seen as the guy who took the Senate away from a Kennedy.