Patrick Kennedy's planned retirement deals Democrats another blow
Patrick Kennedy will officially announce Sunday that he will not seek another term in the House. Republicans were already targeting his Rhode Island seat.
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“In 1994, when Kennedy first won at age 27, this was one of only four seats in the country that switched from the GOP to Democratic control,” he adds. President Obama won here with 65 percent of the vote.Skip to next paragraph
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A franchise of the family business
“My son found his welcome to electoral politics delivered with a bare knuckle or two,” wrote Edward Kennedy in his memoir, “True Compass.”
Six years later, he faced similar criticism over the use of the family name when he ran for and won a seat in the US House. Kennedy told voters that his family connections would help him get things done for the district.
The drama of Kennedy’s years in the House was the struggle of Democrats to get back their majority. In 1998, Kennedy won his bid to direct that effort as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – a job typically given to someone in a very safe seat. Kennedy raised what was at the time a vast sum of money for Democratic candidates, some $50 million. But he was less successful at recruiting effective candidates, and Democrats fell six seats short of winning back the House.
The national campaign also created strains with voters at home. Critics noted that Kennedy spent only 40 days in the state during that election year. In a turnaround, he refocused energies on targeting government funding to Rhode Island, including expanding community health centers and after-school programs and protecting jobs at naval facilities.
While typically voting with liberals, Kennedy split with his father on the Iraq War resolution in 2002, which Senator Kennedy famously opposed.
He also broke with abortion-rights groups to vote to ban a procedure dubbed by critics “partial birth abortion."
His signature legislative achievement was cosponsoring, with his father, a 2004 law ending discrimination against the mentally ill.
“Illness took the life of my most cherished mentor and confidant, my ultimate source of spirit and strength,” he said in his resignation statement. He also thanked the people of Rhode Island: “When I made missteps and suffered setbacks, you responded not with contempt, but with compassion” – referring to personal struggles with addiction and depression.
Kennedy says that he will continue to fight on behalf of those suffering from depression, addiction, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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