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Is Cuomo the top candidate for Clinton's seat?

By Jason Fink

With Sen. Hillary Clinton all but assured of getting the nod to become President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state, the speculation now is that New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, is the front-runner to be her replacement.

One news Website, examiner.com, proclaimed Cuomo the “all but certain” choice for the seat, though several people yesterday cautioned that the report is jumping the gun.

“I think you have to take the governor at his word that he will make a decision when the vacancy occurs,” said Evan Stavisky, a Democratic political consultant based in New York.

By all accounts, Gov. David Paterson, who will appoint Clinton’s replacement, is keeping it close to the vest. As he eyes his own re-election bid in two years, Paterson needs to consider crucial political constituencies — upstate voters, the state’s Hispanic political leadership, and women.

“Getting Cuomo out of the state may be wise for Paterson,” said Bruce Berg, chairman of the political science department at Fordham University.

Cuomo ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002 and has been viewed as a possible rival to Paterson in 2010.

Berg also suggested Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn), one of the other names that have cropped up repeatedly.

“She might do far more for Paterson’s re-election chances in gaining support from Hispanic New Yorkers,” he said.

A Paterson spokeswoman today did not respond to a request for comment and the governor has said publicly only that he will not select himself.

“At this point, it’s all speculation,” said John Milgram, Cuomo’s press secretary.

A Marist poll released last week showed Cuomo with the support of 43 percent of respondents, far higher than the other contenders in the survey: Velazquez, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Happaugue), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-White Plains) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens).

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