Tuesday, May 04, 2010

TOP STORY >> Kennedy: Young man running for Congress

Patrick Kennedy is one of five Democrats running for Congress in the Second District to succeed retiring Rep. Vic Snyder.

The other Democrats running are Sen. Joyce Elliott, Rep. Robbie Wills, John Adams and David Boling.

The winner of the Democratic primary May 18 will face either Republican Tim Griffin or Scott Wallace in November.

When Kennedy, 27, announced for Congress, he stepped down as the director of public programs and public policy at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, the nation’s first graduate program to offer a master’s degree in public service.

Before joining the Clinton School, Kennedy held a joint research position at the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center and the Nebraska State Supreme Court, where he helped research minority biases in the judicial system.

Kennedy is a law student at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and will graduate this summer.

A native of South Carolina, he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on an athletic scholarship and graduated with honors in 2005 with a bachelor of science in biochemistry and a specialization in cognitive neuroscience. He has published in the fields of international law, rhetorical studies and biochemistry.

He serves on the board of the Arkansas Commission Against Sexual Assault and is a member of Pulaski Heights Methodist Church in Little Rock.

Why are you running for Congress?

I’m running for Congress be-cause I grew tired of seeing the same career politicians repeatedly protect their own self-interests and re-election, rather than serve the people who elected them. I’m as disillusioned as anyone with the political infighting and gridlock that seems to prevent any meaningful progress in Washington. I am offering Arkansas voters the choice of a candidate who refuses to sell out his principles, and is committed to repairing the American greatness that makes our country the envy of the world.

Why are you a Democrat?

Democrats have a proud tradition of progress. Whether in the field of social justice, technology, or economics, the Democratic Party has always taken the lead on moving America forward. Roosevelt leveled the playing field between employers and their workers; Kennedy put a man on the moon; Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and Clinton proved that government can do more with less. In this tradition, I believe that the status quo is never good enough, and that we can always leave the country better than we found it for future generations.

How will your background prepare you for Congress?

I’m certainly not a conventional candidate. For example, I’m 27 and single, and have never run for public office. But I believe Arkansas is fed up with where “conventional” candidates have gotten us. I have many of the same issues as the state’s voters — I’m burdened by student debt, and struggle to pay the medical bills for my ill parents. On the other hand, I’ve been blessed with unique experiences that have informed my views on the issues.

As director of Public Policy and Programs at the prestigious Clinton School for Public Service, I’ve befriended many of the world’s brightest thinkers and most influential leaders. I’ve learned that solutions are out there, if a candidate is willing to look outside the typical party talking points and take political risks.

What makes you different from the Democratic and Republican candidates?

I have lots of respect for anyone willing to serve in public office, and count many of the other candidates as friends. Candidly,

I’m not as familiar with their positions as you might expect — I’m focused on getting my own message out so that the voters can decide for themselves.

I ask those voters to consider several questions along the way: Which candidate has the most specific ideas for moving America ever forward? Which candidate is most independent from the conventional political wisdom that leaves Congress in a bitter gridlock? Which candidate is most attuned to the challenges facing the next generation of Americans? We must demand better from our elected officials, and I’m proud to volunteer for the job.

How will you help Arkansas if you’re elected to Congress?

I’m committed to a comprehensive platform of progress for Arkansas, with a focus on modernizing our state workforce and bringing our fight on crime into the 21st century. Since most candidates have the same generic soundbites on the issues, I encourage voters to examine my specific plans at www.KennedyforArkansas.com. Arkansas needs more than change, it needs progress. And as candidates, we must not merely “do something,” but do something better.

Has the political scene changed much in the past few months? Will that help you?

Certainly Cong. Snyder’s sudden retirement caught the conventional political establishment by surprise; I believe that benefits any candidate like me who wants to change the way Washington operates. But I’ve never paid too much attention to the “political scene,” since it is largely the creation of the same career officials who prefer politics to progress.

I intend to encourage a scene that is too often ignored in a campaign season — one of optimism, principle and specific solutions.

Cong. Vic Snyder has secured millions of dollars worth of projects for Little Rock Air Force Base. Will you support the base if you’re elected?

Naturally, LRAFB must continue to be an engine of employment, military strength, and technical innovation in our state. Like any other institution, the base must earn its funding by adapting to the evolving needs of our military.

What can we do about health care? What kind of legislation would you support in Congress?

America has the world’s best doctors, facilities and technology. But access to that care is an intimidating maze of middlemen demanding a markup on a service they played no role in providing.

For many Americans, insurance companies choose our doctors, limit our treatment options and dictate how and what we pay.

Although insurance companies will always play a valuable role in our economy, middlemen are necessarily inefficient, and inefficiency is the enemy of low cost. We must modernize the way Americans pay for medical services and demand that insurers play by the same rules and spirit of fairness that apply to everyone else.

I believe in several steps toward this goal, including: Supplementing the free market with non-profit competitors; requiring insurers to provide more preventative-care options so that Americans don’t have as many health problems later in life and lowering premiums by bringing more uninsured into the health care system.

How do we restart the economy?

As our economy continues to stabilize, our government must focus not only on more jobs, but on better jobs. America must outpace the rest of the world in creating jobs in fields like renewable energy and technology development, in anticipation for what I call the “Industrial Re-Revolution.”

I believe in several useful steps for job creation, such as preparing the workforce for the jobs of tomorrow by increasing federal aid to community colleges, on the condition that those colleges add more and better courses in emerging technical training. I also believe the recent economic crisis has demonstrated the danger of spending too much money we don’t have.

Education on the value and methods of responsible spending should begin in early childhood, with the encouragement of a “saving economy.”

I also favor providing incentives for private innovation with government-administered “superprizes:” In the early 1900s, innovation in the American airplane industry exploded, in part because of a series of prizes for inventors who could solve a specific problem. This tactic is a perfect blend of free-market capitalism and government incentives. Our nation’s brightest scientific minds will undoubtedly work for the invention of new energy sources, with the help of some healthy competition.

What does your family think about your running for office?

It’s a difficult time for my parents. My father has Parkinson’s disease, and my mother has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Without adequate medical insurance, I’ve had to take financial responsibility for much of their medical care. So while personally this is a stressful time for a congressional campaign, my parents realize that the problems facing our country demand brave action.

My family has been overwhelmingly supportive of my decision to run, because they believe in my ability to take a principled stand against the status quo that has left all of us so vulnerable.