OP-ED | TK2: Blessing Or Curse?
Will Connecticut follow the lead of neighboring Massachusetts and send a Kennedy to a prominent political position, even though he’s never even run for dogcatcher before?
Ted Kennedy Jr., son of the late lion of the United States Senate, is mulling a run for the Connecticut state Senate. But unlike many of his ancestors, siblings and cousins, this Kennedy has waited patiently and aimed lower — a refreshing sign of humility typically lacking in political dynasties.
Still, there are others who are surely better qualified to fill the shoes of the retiring Sen. Edward Meyer, the 80-year-old Guilford Democrat who enjoys the rare distinction of having served in two different state legislatures — New York and Connecticut — during a long career as a lawmaker and attorney.
As former state Republican Chairman Chris Healy said recently, the Kennedys tend to run in safe districts and states where they are revered. They prefer locations where fellow Democrats will simply get out the way and where Republicans are hard to find.
But the fightin’ 12th is a swing Senate district. Two of the four state representatives whose districts include part of the 12th are Republicans. None of them ruled out running for Meyer’s seat last week.
In addition to founding a healthcare consulting firm in New York, Kennedy has been active in helping with various social causes in New Haven and, as a cancer amputee, has been a strong supporter of those with disabilities. Those are all admirable qualities.
But one wonders whether Kennedy would be aiming higher than the state Senate if it were possible to do so without unseating a fellow Democrat. After all, turnover in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate seats happens once in a generation if you’re lucky. Both of our current Senators are Democrats serving their first terms.
Branford itself lies in the 3rd Congressional District, whose Democratic representative, 71-year-old Rosa DeLauro, is still eight years younger than Meyer and shows no signs of slowing down enough to consider retirement. So Meyer’s Senate seat was the low-hanging fruit for the ambitious Kennedy.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, who just made his re-election bid official, gushed with praise for Kennedy last week and encouraged him to run. Few things in life are certain, but you can take it to the bank that Malloy, who is facing a bruising re-election campaign, would love to share the November ballot with a Kennedy in those purple shoreline towns.
But then we also have Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, who seemed lukewarm to a Kennedy candidacy because, he dubiously told the New Haven Register editorial board, it “would be a magnet for Citizens United, nationally-based, Koch brothers-style, right-wing intervention here.” Translation: Let someone who has paid his political dues in Connecticut run for Meyer’s seat. We don’t need no stinkin’ celebs roaming the Capitol and attracting TV cameras that should rightly be focused on us.
America’s fascination with the Kennedy family has always perplexed me. On the one hand, many Kennedys have dedicated their lives to public service and the betterment of others when it would have been easy to sit on their money and do nothing.
Still other Kennedys have turned out to be troubled ne’er-do-wells — precisely because they chose to sit on their money and do nothing. Others run into trouble with the law and are let off because of their family name.
The elder Teddy famously left a young woman to die in a submerged car, did not notify authorities of the accident for nearly 10 hours, and was given a minimum two-month suspended sentence.
Kennedy’s cousin Kerry, while driving under the influence in 2012, sideswiped a tractor trailer in Westchester County, N.Y., and was later cleared of all charges, as were other Kennedy cousins William Kennedy Smith and Patrick J. Kennedy in separate cringe-inducing incidents. The list goes on and on.
I suspect Kennedy will not be coronated as his younger brother, the aforementioned Patrick, was in Rhode island when he ran for Congress in 1994. Nor will he be automatically shooed in the way his cousin, Joseph P. Kennedy, was last year in his own campaign for Congress in the Bay State.
TK2, as the junior Teddy is sometimes known, appears to be a better man than his reckless relatives. Obviously, he should not be held responsible for their behavior, but nor should he be given advantages simply because of his name.