NY Gov. picks Clinton successor

January 23, 2009 10:12:37 AM PST
Gov. David Paterson appointed Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday to fill New York's vacant Senate seat, finally settling on a woman from a largely rural, eastern district of the state to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I appreciate the opportunity that you have afforded me and the trust that you have placed in me," she told Paterson. "I realize that for many New Yorkers, this is the first time you've heard my name and you don't know much about me."

The appointment, which requires no further confirmation, came one day after Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, abruptly withdrew from consideration.

Gillibrand, 42, has been considered one of the top contenders in Paterson's selection process, along with Kennedy and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Gillibrand had served as Cuomo's special counsel when he was housing secretary under President Clinton.

Paterson's appointment lasts until 2010, when a special election will be held to fill the final two years of Clinton's term. Clinton is now serving as secretary of state in President Barack Obama's administration.

"She is whip-smart and hard working," said Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York City. "She has made helping upstate her mission, but she understands that New York City is the economic engine that makes the state go. I'm going to work hard to help her be a success. She was a great choice among a lot of great candidates."

Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, called the governor around midday Wednesday and told him she was having second thoughts about the job, according to a person close to Paterson, who said she later decided to remain in contention, only to announce her withdrawal early Thursday in an e-mail.

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AP writers Valerie Bauman in Albany and Kimberly Hefling in Washington contributed to this report.

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