Caroline Kennedy’s mysteriously abrupt decision to abandon her Senate bid gave rise to an ugly swirl of accusations and feverish speculation yesterday over whether she jumped or was pushed.
The 51-year-old daughter of former US president John F. Kennedy was widely considered a front-runner for the Senate seat until she sent a midnight Thursday e-mail to reporters and Governor David Paterson saying she was withdrawing for what she described only as personal reasons.
Even though many Democrats had thought Paterson was going to appoint Kennedy any day now, a person close to the governor said on Thursday that Paterson had no intention of picking her because he believed she handled herself poorly in introducing herself as a candidate.
The person also said there were concerns about possible tax problems for Kennedy, a potential “nanny problem” involving a housekeeper and media rumors that her marriage was on the rocks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kennedy spokesman Stefan Friedman would not give details, but complained: “This kind of mudslinging demeans that process and all those involved.”
The state tax department said it could not find any problems with Kennedy’s records. In an interview last month, she denied she had any “nannygate” problem and said that her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, was very supportive and that they lived together with their children.
In recent weeks, the media gossip Web site Gawker and Vanity Fair have published rumors that Kennedy’s marriage was in trouble.
On Thursday, Paterson issued a statement in which he said Kennedy’s decision “was hers alone” and added that no information gathered during the selection process “created a necessity for any candidate to withdraw.” He was expected to announce his choice for the Senate later yesterday.
Party officials said on Thursday that Democratic Representative Kirsten Gillibrand had emerged as a leading contender.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that the appointment still could go elsewhere, including to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Kennedy called the governor around midday on Wednesday and told him she was having second thoughts about the job. After several hours she told the governor she would remain in contention, the person said.
Then, an hour later, came the midnight e-mail.
People close to the governor were clearly angry over the confusion.
“The question is, did she jump or was she pushed?” Maurice Carroll of the Quinnipiac University poll said.
A person close to Kennedy denied her “personal reasons” were concerns about the health of her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, who is suffering from a cancerous brain tumor discovered last summer.
Among those who are still said to be in the running for the Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state are Cuomo, Representatives Kirsten Gillibrand, Carolyn Maloney and Brian Higgins, and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.