Sunday, January 4th 2009, 4:00 AM
Kevin Sheekey must have something up his sleeve.
The deputy mayor for government affairs says he plans to sit out this year's reelection campaign for his boss and patron, Mayor Bloomberg.
"I expect to be at City Hall through the end of this year," Sheekey said. "I think I better serve the mayor's interest at City Hall."
It's a surprising statement from the guy who ran Bloomberg's 2005 campaign, and who roamed the country for more than a year laying the groundwork for his abortive presidential run.
When that didn't work, Sheekey stoked the speculation that a lame-duck mayor could be a vice-presidential contender for either party. And when all else failed, Sheekey ran the effort to allow Bloomberg to run for a third term as mayor.
Now that Bloomberg '09 is humming in its Third Ave. office, though, Bradley Tusk is the campaign manager and Howard Wolfson is the communications maven - and Sheekey says he'll stick around City Hall doing his day job, pushing bills through the Council and Albany.
Running a campaign is a big job. But nobody really thinks Sheekey just wants to spend more time with his family.
"Am I a little surprised by Kevin not leaving? Yes," said one of his former colleagues, who like the others expects Sheekey will still have a quiet voice in the campaign.
If Sheekey is for real, he's not just turning down the hottest game in town - he's turning his back on half a million bucks. He was paid $700,000 to run the 2005 campaign, but his city salary is just under $200,000.
"He probably sees some payday in his staying around," said another former co-worker.
Yet the campaign Sheekey has been pushing hardest lately involves Caroline Kennedy. She may be a political novice, but he is putting his strategy to work for her - rounding up key figures in unions, the business world and politics to support her early, trying to make her look like the winner when the game has barely started.
Sheekey grew up in Washington. He still feels at home in Washington. If his campaign works, he will create the most dazzling new senator in Washington - and create plenty of new opportunities for himself.
But it would be hard to take advantage of them if he were locked into a job as Bloomberg's campaign manager from now until November. A deputy mayor, though, can have something else up his sleeve.