PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – The atmosphere was more like a family reunion than a campaign event Monday morning when Congressman David Cicilline and his predecessor Patrick Kennedy stopped by Leon Mathieu Senior Center to appeal for votes.
The event’s big focus wasn’t even there: Kennedy’s baby boy, four-and-a-half-month-old Owen Patrick Kennedy. Senior after senior, mostly women, asked Kennedy to pull out a well-worn printed photograph of the smiling infant. “He’s got those Irish eyes,” a beaming Kennedy declared.
Kennedy told WPRI.com that during a visit Sunday to Woonsocket’s John F. Kennedy Manor he promised voters there he’ll bring Owen along when he’s back in town to campaign for Cicilline – a little “October surprise” just in time for the November election.
And what if Owen someday decides he wants to go into the family business and run for office himself? “Well, God bless him,” Kennedy said. “I think politics will look a lot different by the time he’s on the ballot.” There’s plenty of time: Owen only just learned to roll over on his side.
Kennedy and Cicilline arrived in Pawtucket as a few dozen seniors went through a morning exercise routine. They briefly made their pitch for the embattled incumbent over primary challenger Anthony Gemma or Republican Brendan Doherty, focusing – unsurprisingly – on his support for Social Security and Medicare.
Kennedy congratulated the senior center on finally acquiring a long-sought van, regretting that he missed the dedication last March. But “I’m living a new life and I’m loving it,” he said, while Cicilline is still “in the rat race” and needed their support despite attacks on his record. “It isn’t easy to be in public office these days,” Kennedy said.
The two were joined by another familiar face in Rhode Island politics: 105-year-old Frank DiPaolo, Kennedy’s friend and ally since he was a Providence College student running for the General Assembly back in 1988.
DiPaolo – who got his start in politics volunteering for Al Smith’s 1928 presidential bid against Herbert Hoover – leaned on a cane but still looked vigorous as Kennedy doted over him. DiPaolo said he wanted to visit the senior center “to say hello to all those nice young people over there,” according to Kennedy.
Between those two and the absent Owen it was easy to forget the event was ostensibly about Cicilline, but the freshman congressman laughed that off, saying, “I don’t mind being upstaged by my predecessor.”
Another Democrat at Leon Mathieu on Monday was Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, who said Cicilline has supported his city in tough times. Pawtucket faces a $12 million structural deficit, but Grebien defended the former mayor from criticism of his handling of Providence’s finances.
“People make choices in how they manage things – my predecessor did the same thing,” Grebien said. ‘They did what they thought best.”
(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)