In a surprising move, Caroline Kennedy stepped out of the race to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate.

Kennedy, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, asked New York Governor David Paterson on Thursday to remove her bid for the New York senate seat.

I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate, Kennedy said in an e-mail sent early today by her political consultant, Stefan Friedman.

On Wednesday she called the governor Paterson to discuss the matter, a source told the New York Times.

She is concerned with her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy's deteriorating health -- who was hospitalized after a seizure during the inaugural lunch on Tuesday -- which prompted her decision to withdraw, the source said.

Kennedy, 51, had sought the New York Senate seat held by her slain uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, from 1965 to 1968.

The vacancy officially arose yesterday when Clinton resigned after the Senate confirmed her to serve as secretary of state in Obama's administration.

Governor Paterson said he was considering as many as 20 candidates, including state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Kirsten Gillibrand. Cuomo, the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, had the most support among New York State voters in a Jan. 14 Quinnipiac University Poll. Maloney got 6 percent and Gillibrand, 2 percent, according to Bloomberg.