June 14, 2001 - Washington Post: Mark Shriver, son of PC Founding Director, candidate for congress (Full Story)

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Mark Shriver, son of PC Founding Director, candidate for congress (Full Story)

Mark Shriver, son of PC Founding Director, candidate for congress (Full Story)

Shriver Family Ties Speak for Themselves

No Need for Congressional Candidate to Say the 'K' Word at Potomac Fundraiser

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 14, 2001; Page B02

The candidate with the familiar toothy grin and timeless blue suit stood before his guests and detailed how he'd win the congressional seat: knocking on doors, trumpeting his commitment to kids and touting his seven years as a state delegate.

Not once did Mark Kennedy Shriver call attention to his family's famous name. Then again, he didn't have to.

The 250 guests who dropped $1,000 a couple to swirl wide-eyed around his parents' Potomac mansion Tuesday night couldn't help but know where they were.

The house is a virtual theme park of Kennedy lore, its grand entrance hall dominated by a chiseled bust of President John F. Kennedy (that would be the candidate's uncle) and a painting of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (his grandmother).

Shriver loyalists dismissed any suggestion that his family ties are his greatest strength in his quest to capture Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella's 8th District congressional seat next year.

"That's baloney," said Eunice Kennedy Shriver, his wispy 79-year-old mother, as she greeted friends beneath a large painting of her brother Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., who died flying a World War II combat mission. "It's an excuse people use when they got nothing else to say. Everything he does, he does himself."

Nevertheless, some supporters conceded that the 37-year-old delegate needs to articulate a substantial rationale for his candidacy so voters cannot dismiss him as trading on his gilded name.

"Don't run as a Kennedy. That's the hurdle," said Lanny Davis, one of the guests and a former counsel to President Bill Clinton. "He has to prove to people that he has earned the right, not because of his family but because of what he has done."

Democrats view Morella, 70, an eight-term member of Congress, as vulnerable after she narrowly defeated Democrat Terry Lierman, 52 to 48 percent, last year.

But Shriver is not assured of winning the Democratic nomination. State Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. has started an exploratory committee, and two lesser-known Democrats, Ira Shapiro, a former Clinton administration trade official, and lawyer Deborah A. Vollmer, say they are running.

Van Hollen, 42, a widely respected politician, does not sound intimidated by the prospect of running against Democratic royalty. "People in Montgomery County are going to look at the records of the candidates, not who has access to the biggest celebrities and deepest pockets," he said.

Carol Arscott, an Annapolis-based pollster, questioned the wisdom of Shriver trying to distance himself from his family. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, she said, tried that trick in 1986 when she ran for Congress and lost to Republican Helen Delich Bentley, the first time a Kennedy was defeated in a general election.

"If you've got the family business to fall back on, that's an asset, and you ought to use all your assets," she said.

Shriver, who does not make use of the Kennedy in his name, said he is proud of his family's history and accomplishments. But he said he will rely on hard work and his record as a legislator to lure voters.

"There are people who are excited and people who don't like the name," he said. "They're not going to vote for you unless you're willing to stand up on important issues."

But showing off the family name was certainly the plan at Shriver's fundraiser.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) was supposed to make a grand introduction for his nephew, but he couldn't make it because of Senate business.

Instead, the crowd heard from Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), Mark Shriver's cousin, and Sargent Shriver, the candidate's 86-year-old father, the first director of the Peace Corps.

The guests seemed dazzled by their surroundings. Every end table and bookshelf and wall seemed adorned by a Kodak moment -- though not the kind that most families experience.

There was a photo of the family meeting Pope John Paul II. Another showed President Kennedy talking to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Behind the snapshots of grandchildren on the piano was a framed photograph of none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Shriver's brother-in-law.

"It's not like the pictures you'd find in my house," said Kevin Kistler, a union official, before heading off to sample the hors d'oeuvres.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

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Story Source: Washington Post

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