Gov. Paterson yesterday named upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to be the state's new US senator - but the press conference took a bizarre turn when Republican mega-lobbyist Alfonse D'Amato moved front and center.Meanwhile, Democrat operatives now think Andrew 'Evil Eyes' Cuomo will challenge Paterson in next year's primary.
Democrats statewide were aghast to see the former senator and GOP power broker standing close to Gillibrand on stage throughout the nationally telecast news conference that Paterson called to unveil his surprise replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"I couldn't believe it," said one participant at the Albany news conference.
D'Amato, who recently held a fund-raiser for Paterson, said he came at the governor's invitation. Paterson's staff placed him on stage in front of some two dozen Democrats who gathered to support the controversial Senate choice.
At times, D'Amato - the former senior New York senator and an influential Washington lobbyist with a lengthy list of clients - was standing closer to Gillibrand than were Paterson or Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
"Twenty-two years ago, [Gillibrand] was an intern in my office," D'Amato told reporters before being rushed off stage by Paterson aides after the news conference.
Gillibrand's father, Doug Rutnik, a well-known GOP lobbyist, is a longtime D'Amato friend.
But the ex-senator's presence could prove damaging for Gillibrand, whose nomination had already come under attack from liberal Democrats.
The liberals are suspicious of her for bucking party leaders and taking right-leaning positions on gay marriage, immigration and gun rights.
Paterson, making friends fast, says Princess Caroline turned nasty on him.
Much of the issue was "about respect," said one guest.Gateway Pundit links. Thanks!
Paterson said that Kennedy had called him to say she was having second thoughts and "he asked her to wait a day and he thought she had agreed," another attendee recalled.
Then, he said, he couldn't get her on the phone for hours.
"He was absolutely frustrated that he couldn't reach her," the guest said of how Paterson described the scene. "He thought maybe she was sick. He felt she was being nasty to him, that she showed great disrespect."