His hair is lighter and less curly than his uncle Bobby's or
cousin Joe's. His speech is not as polished as his uncle Jack's or
But as Patrick Kennedy works the dining room at the Chateau
Anne housing complex, two dozen residents have visions of his
"I got my picture with the future president," boasts Marjorie
Gordon, 56. "I like Kennedys. I'm a Kennedy fan ever since I was
It is this kind of reception that Patrick Kennedy - at 26, the
youngest child of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy - is banking
on as he runs for Congress. And he makes no apologies for taking
advantage of his famous name:
"I plead guilty. It's just the very same thing, I think, that's
going to allow me to be a more effective congressman on behalf of
Critics argue Patrick is too young and inexperienced for
Congress and has never held a real job. But many consider him the
favorite to succeed Republican Ron Machtley, a three-term incumbent
who is giving up his 1st District seat to run for governor.
"Who else is running? Nobody. That should tell you something,"
said Charlie Bakst, a political writer for The Providence
"He has the magic of the Kennedy name, he has the money, and to
his credit, he's out there working like crazy."
Indeed, after serving a meal of beef, potatoes and gravy to the
residents of Chateau Anne, Kennedy went to a fund-raiser in nearby
His campaign manager, Tony Marcella, said they spend about 12
hours a day, seven days a week, meeting voters, calling potential
contributors and seeking support for Kennedy's candidacy.
Kennedy is a formidable opponent.
Elmer Cornwell, a Brown University professor specializing in
Rhode Island government, said he thinks Machtley decided not to
seek re-election because he didn't think he could beat "that kid,"
an assertion Machtley denies.
"My guess is a factor in his thinking in going for the
governor's job may well have been his doubt about whether he could
contend effectively with the Kennedy name and the Kennedy
resources," Cornwell said.
As a 21-year-old student at Providence College, Patrick Kennedy
ran for the state House of Representatives and defeated incumbent
John Skeffington Jr., the favorite of the state Democratic machine,
in a primary.
It was the costliest legislative primary in Rhode Island
history; Kennedy spent $87,694, or $66 per vote, to Skeffington's
Cousins John Kennedy Jr. and Massachusetts Congressman Joseph
Kennedy II greeted voters at the polls, along with father Ted.
"Patrick's real decision to be involved in politics has been
pretty much his own," the elder Kennedy said. He was proud of
Patrick, he said "for his industry, his commitment and his caring."
Patrick Kennedy has had no trouble getting re-elected. In 1990,
he ran unopposed, and in 1992 his greatest opposition was his own
His name was linked to the rape case against his cousin,
William Kennedy Smith. …