Patrick Kennedy, Ted's Son, Sets His Sights on Washington

By Mark Dubnoff Of The | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 6, 1994 | Go to article overview

Patrick Kennedy, Ted's Son, Sets His Sights on Washington


Mark Dubnoff Of The, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


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 father Ted's.

But as Patrick Kennedy works the dining room at the Chateau Anne housing complex, two dozen residents have visions of his famous relatives.

"I got my picture with the future president," boasts Marjorie Gordon, 56. "I like Kennedys. I'm a Kennedy fan ever since I was young."

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 Rhode Island."

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 Journal-Bulletin.

"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 Pawtucket.

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 $36,268.

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 notoriety.

His name was linked to the rape case against his cousin, William Kennedy Smith. …

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