BOSTON — Joseph Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Tuesday easily won the Democratic nomination for the Massachusetts congressional seat held by retiring House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr.
Kennedy, sounding a bit like a presidential nominee, used his victory speech to hammer on themes of affordable housing and health care and the need to restore the Democratic Party as a party that "stands for something." He repeatedly criticized the Reagan Administration for focusing so heavily on the defense budget.
"Something is wrong when 25% of the children in this country are growing up in poverty. . . . There's nothing wrong with America. What's wrong is its leadership," he said.
"Many of us here have made it in this country in different ways . . . we have a special responsibility to give a little something back to America," said Kennedy, surrounded by more than a dozen members of his family, including his uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
In other voting Tuesday, Oklahoma businessman David Walters, a political newcomer, narrowly defeated state Atty. Gen. Mike Turpen in a runoff election for the Democratic nomination for governor.
With all 2,371 precincts reporting, Walters had 235,294 votes to 232,122 votes for Turpen.
Walters will face Republican Henry Bellmon, a former governor and senator, for the job currently held by Gov. George Nigh, a Democrat who is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term.
In Washington state, Republican Sen. Slade Gorton and former Democratic Rep. Brock Adams, who was President Jimmy Carter's transportation secretary, faced only token opposition and will square off in the fall general election.
Kennedy's chief opponent, state Sen. George Bachrach, conceded less than two hours after the polls closed.
Despite a sometimes acrimonious campaign, he gave a gracious concession speech and pledged support for Kennedy in the November election.
"Joe Kennedy, I think, is a thoroughly good and decent and caring person," he said.
Kennedy was receiving about 49% of the vote and Bachrach about 33%. Further back in the 11-way race were Melvin H. King, a leader of Boston's black community, with 10%, and James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with 5%.
Kennedy, 33, was the second member of his family's younger generation to seek office. His sister, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, won a Maryland congressional primary last week.
Seen as Heavy Favorite
Kennedy will be a heavy favorite in the liberal 8th District over the Republican candidate, consultant Clark Abt, who defeated conservative activist Joe Baldanza.