Friday, February 12, 2010


On December 22, 1960, Senator John Kennedy resigned his seat, having been elected president the previous month. His brother Edward was sworn in to that Senate seat on November 7, 1962, after winning a special election. Aside from that period of less than 23 months, there has been at least one member of that family in Congress, continuously since John Kennedy entered the House of Representatives on January 3, 1947.

Representative Patrick Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island, will bring that streak to an end next January. He has decided not to seek reelection this year.

For the first four years of Patrick Kennedy's time in the House (1995 to 1999), there were three family members in Congress. Ted, Patrick's father, still held the Massachusetts Senate seat. And Patrick's cousin, Joseph Kennedy II, son of the late Senator Robert Kennedy, was a Massachusetts congressman from 1987 to 1999.

No Kennedy is an obvious candidate to carry on the tradition.

President Kennedy's daughter Caroline conducted an unusually public campaign for a gubernatorial appointment to replace Hillary Clinton as senator from New York, after President Obama appointed Clinton secretary of state. Caroline then abruptly removed herself from consideration. So it seems unlikely that she will want to reverse that decision and seek a congressional seat.

Among Patrick's generation, aside from himself and Joe, Joe's sister Kathleen Townsend served two terms as lieutenant governor of Maryland, and lost a gubernatorial election in 2002. But, by now, they seem to have all turned away from the idea of elected office. I'm not sure whether anyone in their children's generation will run for office.

So, a 64-year dynasty comes to an end, at least for the foreseeable future. Not that I'm lamenting its end. I consider a Kennedyless Congress to be better than a Kennedyful Congress. But it's a turning point that deserves to be noted.

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