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Rep. Kennedy not to seek reelection to Congress

The news that Rep. Patrick Kennedy will not be seeking reelection offers has upended the race for the First Congressional District House seat and prompted two high-profile Democrats to enter the contest. 

"Now having spent two decades in politics, my life is taking a new direction, and I will not be a candidate for reelection this year," Kennedy said in a video released to the media last Thursday.

In the video, the eight-term incumbent cited the influence of his father, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, in shaping his views on public service and thanked the people of Rhode Island for their support.

He also vowed to continue working on behalf of those suffering from mental health issues, a fight that was one of his signature priorities in the House of Representatives.

Kennedy's decision to retire was not last minute and was disclosed to members of his inner circle in December, according to Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Wendy Schiller.

"I think he was always going to win," said Schiller, who attributed Kennedy's retirement to fatigue and the belief that he could pursue his objectives in public service outside of Congress.

Democrats Mayor David Cicilline '83 and Bill Lynch, chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, entered the fray for their party's nomination last Saturday. They joined state Rep. John Loughlin, R-Dist. 71, the Republican challenger who announced his candidacy earlier in February.

Other names that have been floated as possible candidates on the Democratic side include state Rep. Jon Brien, D-Dist. 50, and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Schiller said. Brien announced Thursday evening that he was forming an "exploratory committee" to assess the implications of a run for Congress. 

Roberts stated that she is considering running and will make a definitive announcement in the next couple days, Michael Tanaka, Roberts' spokesperson, said.

For Cicilline, the choice to run for Congress was based on his perception of a "dangerous disconnect" between Washington and the people of Rhode Island, he told The Herald.

Cicilline credited his experience as mayor with showing him that there is "no more urgent time than now" to find "real solutions" to the problems faced by middle-class Americans. He cited achievements in advancing education reform, improving public safety, attracting new business, and building a "knowledge economy" as evidence of a commitment to solving problems.

To Loughlin, however, the Democratic contenders currently vying for Kennedy's seat are "establishment candidates" who represent "the Democratic machine." 

"It seems to me that Rhode Islanders are ready for change, and I don't see anybody that represents real change," he said.

Loughlin linked Rhode Island's economic woes, which include high unemployment and record foreclosures, to the legacy of Democratic rule both in Congress and the state's General Assembly, and said he, unlike his opponents, is "ready to stand up to Congress."

While Rhode Island voters "tend towards the Democratic party," the difficult political climate for Democrats in the state and across the country can be traced to a weak economy and the tendency for the party of the White House to lose seats in a midterm congressional election, Schiller said.

As for predictions on the outcome of the race, Schiller offered a wait-and-see attitude and said the challenge left to candidates is to "sell themselves as far as what they can accomplish as congressmen."




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