Patrick Kennedy, the 42-year-old son of Ted Kennedy and a congressman since 1995, has announced he will retire from office. He began as a rising star, winning a seat in the Rhode Island legislature at age 21, but was later troubled by alcohol and depression. Patrick Kennedy's departure at the end of his current term will mark the first time in decades that no member of the Kennedy family is serving in Congress. Here, pundits look back on Patrick Kennedy's legacy as politician of 21 years and as perhaps the last congressman of the Kennedy dynasty. Immediately below, Patrick's announcement.

Kennedy's time in Congress was decidedly uneven. He was rumored to be planning a Senate bid in 2000 but decided against running. He was tasked with chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in that same cycle with expectations within the party that they would seize back control of the House. It didn't happen.

After his stint at the DCCC, Kennedy took on a far less high-profile role in Congress -- emerging only infrequently and not always in the best light. In the spring of 2006 Kennedy crashed his car into a police barricade near Capitol Hill; he entered rehab for addiction and depression days later. Over the summer, Kennedy admitted himself to a rehabilitation facility again."
  • In Politics For His Father  ABC News's Rick Klein suggests Patrick may have joined in the family's political tradition for the benefit of his father Teddy, with whom he was close. "[A]lways got the sense that he was in the biz more for his dad's sake than for his own," he writes. "[I]ntrospective guy."
  • Dropping Out to Save Seat From GOP Takeover?  The American Spectator's Daniel Flynn suspects Kennedy fell on his sword. "A poll released last week by Providence's WPRI-TV reported Patrick Kennedy's disapproval ratings at 62 percent throughout Rhode Island and 56 percent within his district. Rhode Island state representative John J. Loughlin II, a well-funded Scott Brown-clone who has hired several of the key operatives behind the Massachusetts Miracle, announced his candidacy against Kennedy on Thursday."
  • ...Or in Wake of Father's Death?  The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reports that sources downplay the electoral factors in the congressman's retirement, saying it's more about the hardship of losing his father. "Two party officials said Thursday evening that the challenging race this fall was a factor, but that the death of Mr. Kennedy’s father played a larger role in his decision."
  • Will He Reclaim Teddy's Senate Seat?  Liberal blogger Pamela Leavey hopes so. "I hope he will continue on to do great things for the people of America in the tradition of his father and the Kennedy family," she writes. "Perhaps Kennedy might consider testing the Senate waters here in Massachusetts in 2012, when Republican Scott Brown will need to run for a full term in Ted Kennedy’s seat."