Bobby Shriver, brother-in-law of California's governor and a member of the Kennedy clan, extended the family political pedigree Tuesday with his election to the Santa Monica City Council.
In his first campaign for office -- prompted by a dispute with City Hall over hedge heights -- Shriver was the top vote-getter by far among 16 aspirants for four seats.
Shriver, 50, said being a freshly minted politician doesn't mean he's a novice: "I feel like I've always been in the business of politics. I know how to get out into the street and get stuff done."
In semi-official results, Shriver won 20,309 votes, with Mayor Richard Bloom coming in second with 14,575. Councilmen Herb Katz and Ken Genser were also reelected to four-year terms with tallies of 12,722 and 11,748, respectively.
Shriver said he wasn't surprised by his margin of victory.
"I think that people wanted to send a message," he said. "I went out and listened to them."
Shriver is the brother of Maria Shriver and nephew of President Kennedy. He is the son of R. Sargent Shriver, the Democratic Party's 1972 vice-presidential nominee and first director of the Peace Corps. His mother, Eunice, is the sister of John, Robert and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
He didn't consult any relatives before entering the race, he said. "I just announced it."
Top priorities of the new councilman, who takes office in December, are finding solutions to the seaside town's long-standing homeless problem and worsening traffic jams. He also pledged to add parks and open space, use city funds to help Santa Monica's public schools and "insist that City Hall treat each resident with respect."
It was the respect issue that sparked the 17-year Santa Monica resident to enter elective politics.
Two days before Thanksgiving last year, city officials cited him for hedges that were too high. Threatened with thousands of dollars in fines, he organized residents to protest what they felt was heavy-handed code enforcement. The city withdrew.
Shriver said the episode showed him that city government had lost sight of its purpose of serving people.
"I got mad at the way I was being bullied and the way my neighbors were being bullied," he said.
Among his campaigners was his 83-year-old mother. She walked precincts and persuaded neighbors to put up yard signs.
The councilman-elect, a registered Democrat, is chairman of the state Park and Recreation Commission. Gov. Gray Davis appointed him to the post.
A Yale-educated lawyer, Shriver is head of a foundation called DATA that battles AIDS and poverty in Africa. He also has produced seven Christmas albums that have generated $60 million for the Special Olympics, which his mother founded.
He disclaims having aspirations for higher office. "If I did," he said, "I wouldn't have started when I was 50."