Second District Democratic Congressional candidate Patrick Kennedy may not have the money that his opponents have, but he has ideas. And a local rap star.
Kennedy has bold concepts about running a campaign on a shoe-string budget. He’s also got a famous last name that he has turned into a campaign slogan "Keep a Kennedy in Congress."
"It’s a campaign of ideas," he says.
By ideas he means both creatively – like the five-second ad he did telling people he had no money for an ad – and politically. His campaign had a little over $5,000 cash on hand as of March 31st.
Kennedy is the only candidate who has laid out a full-set of issue papers on everything from faith-based initiatives, the environment, the economy and the quirky part – canines. Yes, as in dogs. He will announce a set of policies to address dog-specific priorities, including increasing public places for dogs/dog parks and stricter animal rights laws.
"I just want a discussion," he says. "For God sake’s I know it’s a crazy idea but the other candidates need to tell us their issues and platforms. Being a state legislator doesn’t make you a good national legislator.”
Kennedy is running in the Democratic primary against Speaker of the House Robbie Wills, State Sen. Joyce Elliot, Rep. Vic Snyder’s former chief of staff David Boling and tax attorney John Adams.
At 27, Kennedy is the youngest candidate in the race. He is not an Arkansas native but rather hails from South Carolina where his grandfather, William Jennings Bryan Dorn, was a 13-term congressman. He quit his job at the Clinton School of Public Service to run for office. He says he is broke – all in the name of politics.
"It was in my blood [politics] but I fought it," he says. "My parents and friends told me not to do it. But these are my generation’s issues and I got tired of the same rhetoric and cheesy ads.”
Kennedy came in third in a recent Talk Business Poll behind Elliott and Wills.
He says that while other candidates are making fundraising calls, he’s out meeting voters.
"People, I think, only give money if they have special interests," he says.
The Kennedy campaign is a hybrid of old and new school politics. The old school aspect consists of a listening tour, position papers and shaking hands.
The new school is about the morning "idea board" where everyone involved in the campaign freestyles ideas. Some make the cut, others don’t. It’s about using social media like Facebook and Twitter to the max, designing posters that look retro like John F. Kennedy’s with a modern edge, and creating an online community much like the Obama campaign.
Kennedy isn’t above the in-your-face press release either. This week, he sent one in response to Will’s endorsement by 55 "VIP" Democrats from the Second District. Kennedy sent out his "VUP" list – a list of Very Unimportant People who are supporting him. Examples: Joe Laroy – a fry server at McDonalds – and Josh Johnson – an unemployed Iraq veteran.
Then there’s the hip hop campaign song from rapper Ra A. Hearne — aka Rockst*r Jones — who has recorded a song "Reaching for the Sky" for Kennedy.
"Patrick wants to do different things to reach different segments of the population, youth centered and urban," Hearne says. "The song was pretty much done. I changed the lyrics to match his campaign. The song is about reaching for dreams and not listening to what the naysayers say.”
Hearne says that Kennedy is an "out-of-the-box type thinker."
"It’s fitting that he wanted a song like this associated with his campaign," Hearne, who attended law school with Kennedy, says.
Kennedy will use the song in radio spots. He also plans to hold an event before the primary with various bands and musicians. Money raised goes to various causes chosen by the musicians, not to the campaign.
"It’s about using the campaign for more than just promoting the candidate," Kennedy says. "We’re doing something good for the community as well.
This article was written by Suzi Parker. She is a Talk Business contributor who freelances for The Economist, U.S. News & World Report’s Washington Whispers column, The Christian Science Monitor and Politics Daily. She can be reached by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/suziparker.