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Opinion: Not up to him, but Al Sharpton’s N.Y. Senate pick is Caroline Kennedy

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Well, it looks like Caroline Kennedy has Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat locked up, if Rev. Al Sharpton has anything to say about it.

The junior senator’s seat in the Empire State, once held by Kennedy’s uncle Robert Kennedy, would become available in January when Clinton’s nomination as Barack Obama’s secretary of State is confirmed by the same Senate.

So confusing all these Senate seats changing rear ends. Clinton’s. Obama’s. Biden’s. Salazar’s when he gets named Interior secretary soon. Plus Rahm Emanuel’s House seat.

Word was leaked Monday that the daughter of assassinated President John F. Kennedy wanted the Senate seat. (See news video below.)

To insert himself in the resulting publicity, Sharpton, in effect, confirmed her desire by sending media an e-mailed, unsolicited public statement announcing she had called him about it.

In a backhanded kind of way Sharpton supported Kennedy by saying he felt ‘compelled to state that I unequivocally disagree with those that say she is not qualified and could not bring needed leadership to this state and country.’

Sharpton cited as qualifications her writing, her work on behalf of children and background as an attorney. ‘Elected office is not the only area of public service that establishes leadership in this country,’ he added. ‘We just elected a community organizer as president of the United States.’

Actually, it’s New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson who has the nomination choice. His is a potentially complicated political equation, since both he and whomever he picks to replace Clinton must run in the 2010 election together. A New York City native, Paterson is not as well known or popular in upstate New York.

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Andrew Cuomo, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, was also considered another strong replacement nominee. Naming Cuomo to the Senate would eliminate him as a possible gubernatorial primary challenger to Paterson.

But turning down a Kennedy for a seat in the legislative body where Ted, Robert and John have all served would likely prove impossible and create greater party problems for Paterson.

Although she first donated campaign money to Clinton, Kennedy, like her uncle Ted, ended up endorsing Obama and serving as co-chair of his vice presidential search team. Kennedy has not donated to Paterson.

Besides, as Sharpton added, ‘I also invited Ms. Kennedy to dine with me at Sylvia’s this week in Harlem and reminded her that I took Sen. Obama there during his campaign so it’s a good luck stop since he did all right.’

-- Andrew Malcolm

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