Early buzz for veep includes Napolitano Choosing woman might soothe alienated Dems By John Hanna The Associated Press Tucson, Arizona | Published: 06.05.2008 TOPEKA, Kan. — The veep sweeps are in full buzz, and there's increasing chatter surrounding two rising Democratic stars — Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, two potential running mates who could help Barack Obama woo female voters. Both are well-regarded in national Democratic circles for winning two terms in states that historically lean Republican. They're seen as serious contenders for the No. 2 spot because Democrats worry Obama's presidential-primary victory has alienated supporters of his chief rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. But they aren't alone on the list of potential bridesmaids. Clinton has told lawmakers privately that she would be interested in the vice presidential nomination. Wednesday, aides said Clinton would end her race for the presidency and endorse Obama at a party unity event on Saturday in Washington, D.C. Obama named a three-person team including Caroline Kennedy to lead his search for a running mate Wednesday while expressing confidence the Democratic Party would soon unify after a bruising battle for the presidential nomination. National newcomers get buzz Campaign officials said Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and longtime Washington insider Jim Johnson have already begun compiling information on potential running mates. They disclosed no names. But it is Sebelius and Napolitano who are getting much of the early buzz, perhaps because they are somewhat newer faces on the national political landscape — though neither governor has said much herself. "I have an interest in being governor of Arizona," Napolitano said Wednesday. "He'll look, I'm sure, at a number of possibilities. The Democratic bench is a very deep one." Sebelius issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging that she's had regular contacts with Obama's campaign and the candidate himself. But she said, "There has been no discussion from the Obama campaign with me or anyone else on my team about serving as vice president." Both governors have downsides, including that each would have a tough time drawing her state into the Democrats' column come November. Peter Fenn, a Democratic media consultant in Washington, said Obama also would face a natural question from Clinton's supporters if he considers putting Sebelius, Napolitano or another woman on the ticket: "Why didn't you take Hillary?" But Napolitano said Wednesday Obama does not need Clinton as his running mate to unite the party, even as she sidestepped questions of whether she is a contender. Napolitano, an Obama supporter for months, said Clinton entered — and apparently leaves — the presidential race with a lot of respect. She said Obama now has to have "his own process" to select a vice presidential candidate. Although Clinton got a lot of popular votes in the primaries, and beat Obama in a number of states the Democrats need in November, Napolitano said that doesn't mean Obama needs Clinton. "I think the Democrats are going to unite behind Obama almost irrespective of who he chooses," the governor said. Clinton and her associates have been maneuvering to gain her a place on the ticket. Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, said he, with Clinton's blessing, had written the Congressional Black Caucus asking members to urge Obama to place Clinton on the ticket. Don Bivens, Arizona's Democratic chairman, said he sees Napolitano as qualified, but "I personally would like her to stay as governor for the state and potentially run for Senate down the line." Under Arizona law, Napolitano would have to resign if she runs with Obama, which makes the Legislature's Democratic minority nervous. Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, would succeed her. "It would be devastating," said Democratic Sen. Ken Cheuvront of Phoenix, who recalled that his party had no clout while two Republicans were governor before Napolitano. "We were completely ostracized and made irrelevant."