A Kennedy has held one of the Senate seats from Massachussetts for more than 56 years, with the exception of two years when a family friend held it as a placeholder for Ted Kennedy from 1961-2. Many had hoped that Ted Kennedy’s widow or nephew would run for the seat, or perhaps the state legislature would allow Deval Patrick to appoint one of them instead — by overturning a law championed by Teddy himself stripping the governor of that power. That possibility came to an apparent end today as Joe Kennedy II declined to run for the office:
Former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, the eldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, announced Monday he would not run for the U.S. Senate seat held for nearly 50 years by his late uncle, Edward M. Kennedy. The decision was certain to widen the race for the Democratic nomination.
In a statement, the former six-term congressman said he cares about those seeking decent housing, fair wages and health care. But he added, “The best way for me to contribute to those causes is by continuing my work at Citizens Energy Corp.”
And that brings the dynasty to at least a temporary end. Joe Kennedy II has better things to do than run for office, or at least that’s what he says. Glen Johnson at the AP has a rather tart take on Joe’s demurral:
The nonprofit organization provides free heating oil to the poor, but Kennedy likely would have faced campaign questions about fuel it received from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — a persistent U.S. critic. He also has settled into a comfortable lifestyle since leaving Congress in 1999, taking home a $545,000 salary as Citizens Energy’s president as of 2007, and being spared the barbs he has faced from some local columnists recently for his past temper tantrums and high pay.
Isn’t this the administration that created a political witch hunt over CEOs with high pay? A salary of over a half-million dollars at a charitable non-profit seems a bit excessive, especially for a trust-fund recipient like Joe. The Chavez connection would probably have mattered less to Massachusetts voters, but could have created a problem for Democrats in general as they flocked to support Kennedy.
In the end, though, the attempts to draft Joe and Vicki Kennedy, Ted’s widow, were more about desperation than sense. Some Democrats have limited imaginations and couldn’t see a future without a Kennedy in the seat. They seemed more interested in the name rather than whether they had ideas and innovation to offer, which is what happens when politicians become more about the nobility than the voice of the people.
For the moment, the Kennedy dynasty has come to an end in the Senate. Massachusetts won’t sink into the Atlantic, and the Senate chamber will not collapse. The Kennedys have no claim on representation in government except that provided to every American citizen: a vote. Massachusetts and the Senate will be better off without its dynasty.