NEW YORK Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, is pursuing the Senate seat of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has been nominated Secretary of State, civil rights activist Al Sharpton said on Monday.
Sharpton said he received a phone call from Kennedy on Monday in which she expressed her interest in the Senate seat.
Sharpton said he told her he had not had any meaningful discussions with New York state Gov. David Paterson, who has the authority to appoint any replacement for Clinton, "about her or any other potential candidate to date."
"I unequivocally disagree with those that say she is not qualified and could not bring needed leadership to this state and country," Sharpton said in a statement.
Paterson told a news conference in the state capital Albany on Monday that he would not talk about any individual candidates.
Kennedy, 51, spent part of her childhood in the White House until her father was assassinated in 1963 and since then has kept a relatively low public profile.
She endorsed Obama during his primary campaign against Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination and later helped the search for his vice-presidential candidate.
Interest in her possibly seeking the senate seat has been enhanced by her family's status as an American political dynasty. One of her uncles, Robert F. Kennedy, was a New York senator and a presidential candidate when he was assassinated in 1968. Another uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, is one of the most powerful members of the Senate.
Paterson previously said he was "consulting with a wide variety of individuals" over the appointment and would not announce a replacement until the position became vacant.
Clinton was not expected to resign as New York's junior senator until the Senate considers her confirmation as the nation's top diplomat after Obama takes office on January 20.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Michelle Nichols in New York and Elizabeth Flood Morrow in Albany; Editing by David Storey)