ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Gov. David Paterson said for the first time Thursday that Caroline Kennedy’s lack of legislative experience is a “minus” to her qualifications as a possible appointee to the U.S. Senate.

But the governor, who will appoint a new senator if Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes secretary of state as expected, also said Kennedy has many positives despite never holding elective office.

“Caroline Kennedy obviously does have a tremendous relationship with (President-elect Barack Obama) that’s certainly a plus,” Paterson said Thursday. “She does not have much political, I mean, legislative experience, which is a minus.”

The Democratic governor said as many as 15 contenders are interested and he’s already spoken to or interviewed about 10.

He said Kennedy’s advantages include her name and contacts in Washington – including her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy – that could give her immediate clout, much like former first lady Clinton.

Caroline Kennedy, a 51-year-old author and lawyer who famously guarded her privacy until December, gave a critical early endorsement to Obama during his campaign. Now, Paterson is lobbying Obama hard for an economic stimulus package to help New York out of a historic fiscal crisis.

Others said to be interested in the appointment include New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi of Long Island, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Steve Israel, Jerrold Nadler, Kirsten Gillibrand and Brian Higgins.

Associated Press Writer Valerie Bauman contributed to this report from Albany.

AP-ES-01-08-09 1759EST

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