A Kennedy-Cuomo Matchup for N.Y. Atty. General? Newspapers Love It

By: (AP) Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to media: "Don't make me tabloid fodder." Too late.

His plea appeared to fall on deaf ears almost immediately after The Associated Press reported a week ago that Kennedy was talking to top Democrats about running for state attorney general, a race that could pit him against his estranged brother-in-law, Andrew Cuomo.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, is a son of slain New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Cuomo, the former federal housing secretary, is the elder son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

The potential battle is for the job being given up by fellow Democrat Eliot Spitzer, who has decided to run for governor in 2006 after taking the rather obscure elected office and turning it into a national bully pulpit with investigations of Wall Street, mutual funds, and the insurance industry. A half-dozen other Democrats also are interested in the race.

Kennedy voiced his position on headlines Tuesday when he told New York 1, New York City's all-news cable channel, that he would decide by the end of the month whether to run.

"If I run, it's to talk about issues, not to become tabloid fodder," he said.

But on Wednesday, the New York Post devoted a full page to the potential matchup, with the headline: "POLS' BLOOD FEUD."

There was an accompanying graphic, labeled "Tale of the tape: Battle of the dynasties," laying out their ages, experience, and other items, including Kennedy's "biggest mistake" -- his "heroin arrest." That was a possession charge in South Dakota in 1983 that led to five months of drug rehabilitation and 800 hours of community service. Since then, he has become one of New York's leading environmental advocates.

And, upholding tabloid tradition, the Post spread included a large photo of Kerry Kennedy Cuomo -- the sister of one and estranged wife of the other -- in a bikini.

Even The New York Times couldn't resist the front-page headline: "Only in New York: Kennedys, Cuomos And Voters, Oh, My."

"If the collision happens, the normally obscure race for state attorney general will instantly transform into a campaign headliner -- with a soap opera subtext," noted Wednesday's Washington Post.

Kerry Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo wed in 1990 in Washington, joining two of America's first families of politics in a union dubbed "Cuomolot."

Cuomo went on to become President Clinton's housing secretary and then ran for the 2002 Democratic nomination for governor of New York. After repeated stumbles -- he said Republican Gov. George Pataki was merely a "coatholder" for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- Cuomo ended his campaign even before the Democratic primary.

The next year, the couple split. His lawyer said Cuomo "was betrayed and saddened by his wife's conduct during their marriage." There were tabloid reports that he had discovered she was having an affair. A divorce is pending.

Democratic operatives said Kennedy has to know that any race he is in, and especially if Cuomo is also in it, will be sensationalized.

"Every race that some member of his family is in is tabloid fodder at some level," said consultant Philip Friedman. "If he's not willing to stand that heat, he ought to get out of the kitchen."

Friedman predicted that Kennedy won't run "because of the publicity issue."

"If he does run, and Andrew stays in the race, it'll light up the tabloids every day," said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

That's a view shared by one of the state's top tabloid editors.

"What could be a better story than a clash of two political dynasties like the Kennedys and the Cuomos?" asked Gregg Birnbaum, political editor for the New York Post. "And, that's even before you put the Kerry Kennedy hot sauce on it -- the love, betrayal and revenge surrounding the spectacular breakup of her marriage to Andrew.

"If this battle royal happens, of course we will cover the candidates' positions on the issues -- the office of attorney general is too important not to," Birnbaum added. "But, I assure you that there will be more. Oh, so much more."


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