- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

The Kennedy family dynasty, so consistently victorious in the past 50 years that it has become virtually the liberal brand name of politics, may have entered the autumn of its discontent.
In a defeat that startled analysts, Kennedy relative Mark K. Shriver lost the Democratic primary last week in Maryland's 8th Congressional District. A Kennedy had not tasted defeat at the polls since 1986, when Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lost her bid for the U.S. House in Maryland.
Mrs. Townsend, Maryland's personable lieutenant governor, is herself in a tougher-than-expected campaign for governor this fall, amid criticism in her own party that she has frittered away a 15-point lead in a race that is hers to lose.
And Andrew Cuomo, who inherited his own political lineage but married into the Kennedy family, dropped out of the Democratic primary in the New York governor's race earlier this month when polls showed he was headed for a lopsided loss.
Some analysts are wondering whether the latest generation of Kennedys has lost the family's aura of invincibility.
"Obviously, it's no longer enough in this world to show up and announce that you're a Kennedy," said Mike McKenna, a Republican pollster at Andres McKenna Research in the District. "Shriver got beat on the ground, which is where the Kennedys never get beat."
An aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said the Massachusetts Democrat was "very disappointed" in Mr. Shriver's loss because Mr. Kennedy believes his nephew has a promising political future.
In a statement, Mr. Kennedy said he is "very proud of Mark for his impressive campaign and for all the work he has done to fight for working families in Maryland."
"Mark has a bright and limitless future in public service, and I know that he will continue to fight for the issues that he championed during the campaign and to make a positive difference in our society," said Mr. Kennedy, in his 40th year in the Senate.
As for any waning of Kennedy power, the senator's aide said, "The dynasty is individual by individual. You can't really tie it to any type of pattern."
Mr. Kennedy's son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat, is running for re-election this year, and analysts say he is likely to keep his seat. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, campaigned for the younger Mr. Kennedy in Rhode Island this weekend and said a political family name is never a guarantee of success.
"It comes down to individual candidates, like everything else," Mrs. Clinton said. "Individual members of the [Kennedy] family are going to continue to serve and serve with distinction. They've made so many contributions to our public life."
Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, pointed out that Sen. Kennedy lost the Democratic nomination for president in 1980 against President Jimmy Carter.
"There's nothing automatic for anybody in America; there never has been," Mr. Kerry said.
A top Republican campaign official said Mr. Shriver was not a perfect fit for the Maryland district.
"The Kennedys always appeal to the downtrodden, and this is not an underclass district," the official said. "Also, this entitlement thing doesn't play well with independent voters. I don't think Shriver was making that [entitlement] argument, but his opponent was."
State Sen. Christopher Van Hollen defeated Mr. Shriver and will face Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella in November. Mr. Shriver was out greeting the public Friday and encouraging voters to back Mr. Van Hollen.
Some political observers say it is difficult for any political family such as the Kennedys to continue its string of successes from generation to generation.
"This is another generation, and it's a whole different time," Mr. Kerry said. "Their kids, all of them, are enormously talented, very capable people. But you know, they obviously in some cases are running in situations where people are looking at the positions, at the issues at the totality."
The campaign difficulties for the family come when Sen. Kennedy is, in the eyes of some observers, at the peak of his influence in Congress.
Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, said Mr. Kennedy "is probably more popular now than he's ever been."
"That's evidenced by the fact that President Bush came [last year] to Massachusetts, to the place where Sen. Kennedy's grandparents went to high school, at Boston Latin, to sign the education bill," Mr. Meehan said. "And I don't think he's ever had more influence than he has right now."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide