End of the line for Patrick Kennedy

February 12, 2010

Bringing down the curtain – at least for now – on Camelot and one of the most storied political dynasties in the nation’s history, U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, says he is not running for re-election.

In a taped message intended for broadcast Sunday night and obtained by the Herald, the R.I. Democrat, looking haggard and speaking directly into the camera, said it was time to leave Congress after 16 years.

“Now having spent two decades in politics, my life is taking a new direction, and I will not be a candidate for re-election this year,” Kennedy said in the ad.

Kennedy’s bombshell comes as polls show the eight-term Democrat in an uphill fight against Republican John J. Loughlin II, a veteran state lawmaker and well-financed foe.
“I wish the congressman well in what ever the future holds,” Loughlin said. “It doesn’t change our mesage to the voters of the First Congressional district – we’re still expecting we’re going to have to run a race.”

A WPRI-12 poll out just last month showed Kennedy with a staggering 56 percent unfavorable rating in his own district, swelling to 62 percent statewide. Moreover, just 35 percent in his district would vote for him again.

“It was not going to be a cakewalk,” said Joe Fleming, who conducted the poll.

Kennedy’s stunning bow-out also closely follows Republican Scott Brown winning the Massachusetts seat long held by the congressman’s iconic father for 47 years.

A longtime aide and confidant, though, said Kennedy, 42, had pondered the departure from public life for some time.

“It’s something he’s been thinking about for a while,” said Sean Richardson, Kennedy’s former chief of staff, who added that the decision has nothing to do with Kennedy’s most recent struggles with substance abuse.

“ After serving in elected office for half of his life, it was time to take his talents to a different arena,” Richardson said.

Kennedy will finish out his term but hasn’t indicated what he’d like to do once he leaves office, Richardson said.

However, in his video remarks, Kennedy said he would battle on behalf of sufferers of depression, addiction, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kennedy also hasn’t thrown his support behind any other candidates, Richardson said.

The sudden departure of Kennedy caught his Republican rival off guard.

“I am somewhat surprised,” Loughlin said

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