Ray Kelly Floated as Possible Replacement for Departing Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano

Politicians say the police commissioner has what it takes to lead the department

By Andrew Siff
|  Friday, Jul 12, 2013  |  Updated 10:55 PM EDT
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Ray Kelly Floated for Homeland Security Chief

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Politicians and top security officials are pushing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as a replacement for departing Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.

"He's got a tremendous amount of energy, and I think this might be the challenge that he would accept," former state Homeland Security chief Michael Balboni said of Kelly. 

New York City's top cop since 2002, who also served under Mayor Dinkins, Kelly has passed up a potential run for mayor himself but many seem to think he has what it  takes to lead the nation's Homeland Security agency.

Balboni, a friend of Kelly, said the surprise departure of Napolitano leaves a critical opening in the President's Cabinet. He believes the job of Secretary of Homeland Security may be tailor-made for the man who built a 1,000-officer-per-day counterterrorism unit at the NYPD.

"He has kept the city safe in a time of tremendous threat and terrorism," he said. 

Sen. Chuck Schumer personally called the White House Friday to advocate for Kelly. His office also released a video of the senator saying, "New York's loss will be America's gain. Ray Kelly has extensive experience with anti-terrorism, with homeland security and he's run a very large organization, the NYPD, extremely well for over a decade. And so Ray Kelly would be a great choice for Secretary of Homeland Security."

Critics wonder if the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk tactics might impact Kelly's chances. But New Yorkers generally seemed appreciative that Kelly has led the police department through dangerous times.

"I don't agree with everything that he's done, but for the most part he's done a real good job," said Gordon Taylor of Astoria, Queens.

"He's got a track record. He's stood up for what is right, in my opinion, anyway," said Dorothy Pagano of Long Island City. 

Kelly had no comment Friday. 

Napolitano, who visited the tri-state area after Sandy, was praised by area lawmakers for her ability to steer federal funds here quickly after the storm.

"She was making on-the-spot decisions, getting us immediate help that we really weren't getting from the rest of the federal government," said Rep. Peter King. 

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