The Kennedy political dynasty now extends into the District of Columbia, if just barely.
William Kennedy Smith, nephew to a president and two senators, won his bid for an advisory neighborhood commission seat in Foggy Bottom on Tuesday, winning 222 votes to a fellow candidate’s 172.
The race had been closely watched for an ANC race — due not only to Smith’s family ties, but also his history in the media spotlight, including his 1990 televised trial for the alleged rape of a Florida woman, of which he was acquitted.
One longtime activist said last month that she feared “adverse publicity” for the neighborhood should Smith win a seat. But Smith’s neighbors in the Watergate complex and other apartment buildings nearby apparently did not share that concern.
Feelings remained somewhat raw hours after the results came in. The other candidate on the ballot, lawyer Thomas B. Martin, conceded in a Facebook posting Wednesday morning that called the outcome a “head scratcher.”
“I got a lesson in the importance of money in politics, and the power of a name,” Martin wrote. “I hope that in the period between now and January our commissioner-elect will take the opportunity to attend ANC meetings, visit his local public school for the first time and learn about the neighborhood beyond the Watergate’s boundaries.”
In an interview, Martin said he believed Smith — on the ballot as “William K. Smith — spent “a good amount” in the final weeks of the race on signs and mailers.
“We didn’t have much of a budget,” Martin said.
Smith, reached Wednesday morning, scoffed at the suggestion that he’d bought the election, though he declined to say how much was spent.
“I wanted to run a campaign as a member of the local community,” he said. "I didn’t use political consultants. Everything was done by my wife and I and my neighbors in-house.”
As for the power of the Kennedy name? Smith said he resisted the possibility of calling in relatives to campaign for him — including mother Jean Kennedy Smith, sister to John, Robert and Edward Kennedy as well as a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
“He said I was trying to hide my identity; then, when I won, he said it was because of my middle name,” he said. “It’s either one or the other.”
Both Martin and Smith said they were pleased by the high level of engagement in a race where the issues revolved around traffic, noise, street crime and homelessness.
Martin said he’d remain active in the neighborhood, particularly at the public elementary school his children attend, while Smith said he’s eager to dig into liquor license applications and zoning variances.
“I think I have a lot of experiences that are going to make me a more effective ANC commissioner,” said Smith, a medical doctor and businessman. “This is a job everybody understands is about service, and that’s my approach to it.”