- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

ANNAPOLIS — The names on Maryland's ballot next year will be Townsend and Shriver, but the styles, smiles and passion for politics are pure Kennedy — an aura that Republicans know will be an obstacle in their bid to reclaim the governor's chair after a lapse of more than 30 years, when Spiro T. Agnew occupied it.
Two Kennedy cousins, the next generation of one of the nation's most widely known Democratic political families, will seek higher office in Maryland's 2002 election.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend — daughter of Robert Kennedy and niece of President Kennedy — has raised more than $3 million to finance her expected bid to become Maryland's first female governor.
State Delegate Mark Shriver — son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver and nephew of President Kennedy — has raised more than $744,000 in his announced run for Congress from a suburban Washington district.
Mrs. Townsend, 50, has not announced her candidacy to succeed outgoing Gov. Parris N. Glendening but said, "I plan to be in politics for a long, long time."
Mr. Shriver, 37, is not so coy. "She's going to obviously run," he said.
Maryland pollsters and political analysts say the Kennedy name is one reason for the cousins' bright political prospects.
"It's an asset, just like the name Bush was an asset for George W.," said local political consultant and pollster Carol Arscott. "As much as we Americans like to say we don't do dynasties here, we do it all the time."
It is one of many factors would-be Republican candidates are keeping in mind as they reluctantly decide who among them might take on Mrs. Townsend.
The man who stands the best chance, many state party officials agree, is Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Timonium. But he hasn't made up his mind whether to run for the gubernatorial seat. He could decide within two weeks or later this summer, his aides have said.
Paul Herrnson, a University of Maryland government and politics professor, said being a Kennedy provides access to the best political consultants, politically experienced relatives and big-money contributors across the country.
"It certainly opens the door. Then you've got to be good enough to walk through the door," he said.
Republicans aren't convinced Mrs. Townsend is unbeatable, but whoever challenges her is going to have to raise a lot of money quickly.
So far, Potomac businessman John Kane and fellow Republican Audrey Scott, a Prince George's County Council member, have said they will accept the Townsend challenge if Mr. Ehrlich decides to keep his seat in Congress.
Mrs. Townsend and Mr. Shriver are both considered good bets to win Democratic primaries next year. Two independent polls this year give Mrs. Townsend big leads over potential Democratic and Republican challengers.
University of Maryland government and politics professor Eric Uslaner said 2002 "could be a very good year for the Kennedys in Maryland, better than in Massachusetts."
Miss Arscott said Mr. Shriver and Mrs. Townsend do not seem to be affected by "some public perception" that the Kennedys' political bloodline "is thinning a little as the generations march on."
The pair are rising stars in Maryland just as the family's political fortunes falter in New England. The pair also are unblemished by improper public behavior, unlike some other family members.
Mrs. Townsend's brothers, Maxwell and Joseph, both decided earlier this year not to seek political office in Massachusetts. Max Kennedy withdrew from consideration to fill the congressional seat of the late Joe Moakley, while former Congressman Joe Kennedy decided not to run for governor.
U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat, is seeking re-election after a year in which he shoved a Los Angeles airport security guard and reportedly damaged a rented yacht. His in-state approval ratings have dipped below 50 percent, prompting a staff shake-up.
His father, Edward M. Kennedy, remains U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
About 7,000 people attended Mrs. Townsend's 50th birthday party at the Baltimore Zoo on a recent sultry Sunday. Mrs. Townsend barely moved 10 yards in an hour, crowded by people shaking her hand, embracing her and posing for pictures.
A few days later, Mr. Shriver knocked on doors in a posh suburban Washington neighborhood.
"Are you from the Shriver family?" asks Bart Myles, visiting from Norfolk, Va.
"This is the second closest I've ever been to a Kennedy," Mr. Myles said before retelling an encounter with President Kennedy four decades ago.
Mrs. Townsend and Mr. Shriver acknowledge the benefits of being a Kennedy, particularly in raising funds and opening doors.
"I'm very proud of what my family did and has accomplished," Mrs. Townsend said.
But she said she always focuses on her goals and accomplishments, not her name.
Both candidates' views on major issues — such as increasing government aid for education and social programs, supporting abortion rights and protecting the environment — mesh well with those of mostly Democratic Maryland.
Mrs. Townsend and her husband, David, a teacher at tiny St. John's College, have four daughters, ages 9 to 23.
Mr. Shriver and his wife, Jeanne, have a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son.
"I think they are both very nice people, very decent people. I have no quarrels with their good intentions and their dedication to public service," said Robert Flanagan, Republican whip in the state House of Delegates.
But he said both advocate big-government policies that threaten Maryland's economic future, calling Mr. Shriver "the poster boy for big spending."
Mr. Flanagan said problems emerged during Mrs. Townsend's oversight of the criminal justice system, including revelations that incarcerated juveniles were abused at state boot camps. The camps eventually closed.
Mrs. Townsend countered: "I took on tough issues because I believe crime and violence have such a devastating effect on families. But when I saw a mistake was made, we corrected it."
Mr. Shriver's task is more difficult, with a primary race against state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen of Montgomery County. The winner could face Republican incumbent Rep. Constance A. Morella if she runs for a ninth term.
Mr. Shriver believes $2.5 million is needed to campaign competitively. He expects help from his family, including sister Maria, an NBC reporter.
"I'm not embarrassed by my family," Mr. Shriver said. "I'm hopeful that they are all going to help out."
c Staff writer Margie Hyslop contributed to this report.

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