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Congressman Kennedy says he will not seek re-election

February 12, 2010

Representative Patrick Kennedy, son of the late senator Edward Kennedy, said Friday that he will not seek re-election to Congress, ending decades of Kennedy family presence in elected office. 

Kennedy said he was deeply affected by the death of his father -- a Democratic icon of the US senate -- in August, but news reports suggest he was also set to face a bruising re-election campaign against a Republican opponent.

"Having spent two decades in politics, my life has taken a new direction, and I will not be a candidate for re-election this year," the 42-year-old Kennedy said in a video message, posted on the YouTube website.

The two-minute message will be broadcast in his district over the weekend, US media reported.

Kennedy, who has represented a district in the northeastern state of Rhode Island since 1995, thanked supporters, singling some out by name.

"We all know how difficult the past few years have been," he said, referring to the economy.

"Illness took the life of my most cherished mentor and confidant, my ultimate source of spirit and strength," he said, speaking about his father "Ted" Kennedy, who died on August 25, 2009 of brain cancer at the age of 77.

"My father taught me that politics at its very core is about serving others. For two decades I've been humbled and honored to represent people of my state," he said.

"He instilled in me a deep commitment for public service, whether through elected office ... or non-profit advocacy.

"Going forward I will continue many of the fights we waged together, particularly on behalf of those suffering from depression, addiction, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.

Kennedy spoke from personal experience, and has admitted to battling drug and alcohol addiction for years.

In May 2006 he crashed his car on Capitol Hill. Police said that he appeared intoxicated, though Kennedy told them that he was disoriented after taking prescription medicine.

The following day Kennedy held a press conference, acknowledged an addiction to prescription drugs, and announced that he was going to enter a drug rehabilitation center where he had earlier been treated.

"When I made missteps or suffered setbacks, you responded not with contempt but with compassion," Kennedy said in the video message, addressing his constituents.

Patrick's father Ted Kennedy was brother to president John F. Kennedy -- slain while in office in 1963 -- and Robert "Bobby" Kennedy, killed while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.

In a shocking upset in a January vote, the Massachusetts senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for 36 years was filled by a Republican, Scott Brown.

Patrick Kennedy, whose state neighbors Massachusetts, was set to face an especially tough re-election race against Republican state representative John Loughlin III, the New York Times reported.

Kennedy aides told the Times that a potentially difficult re-election was a factor, but that his father's death played a more important role in his decision to retire.

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