WEST WARWICK, R.I. -- Democrats endorsed Representative Patrick Kennedy, who was absent and being treated for addiction to prescription pain drugs, for reelection last night at their state convention.
Kennedy checked into the Mayo Clinic Friday for his second stay in less than five months after a middle-of-the-night car crash near the Capitol on Thursday that he said he couldn't remember. It was his second car accident in three weeks.
Republicans have said that Kennedy should step aside because he cannot fulfill his duties. But Democratic leaders said last night that he has done a good job and deserves support in his battle with addiction.
''We do not walk away from our friends," said Bill Lynch, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Kennedy has talked openly about battling addiction and mental health problems for years and has advocated for greater mental healthcare coverage. He was treated for a cocaine addiction as a teenager and has since said he was in recovery for alcoholism. He has been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder.
Many Democrats praised Kennedy for his openness and said the controversy surrounding him would not exist if he suffered from another disease.
In a moving speech that drew some of the loudest applause of the evening, state Representative Paul Crowley of Newport described his own battle with cancer and Kennedy's visit to him after he underwent surgery.
''I'm sad that maybe that day he didn't say to me that he was struggling, because he was," Crowley said. But, he said, Kennedy's ability to do the job should not be questioned.