A Republican candidate for Middle Georgia’s state Senate District 18 has a name that’s provoking double-takes: John F. Kennedy.
When his friend Sallie Barker introduced him at a recent social for young professionals in Thomaston, she was sure to mention, “the ‘F’ stands for Flanders, not Fitzgerald.”
A Monroe County resident, Kennedy works as a lawyer in Macon. He’s charming, clean-cut and handsome — kind of like President Kennedy.
Though this Kennedy is definitely not from Boston.
“I grew up in Adrian, Georgia, a small town of 800 people,” he told the group in Thomaston. “We used to watch The Andy Griffith Show to see how city-folk live.”
When Kennedy is away from the crowds, he does admit to some angst about sharing a name with an icon — really, the icon — of the Democratic Party.
“I’ve been the brunt of a lot of jokes for the last 48 years,” Kennedy said. “Anyone that knows me knows that I’m conservative, and I’ve been conservative all my life.”
Kennedy even identified as a Republican in high school in the 1980s, when many more people in rural Georgia were still Democrats.
It’s not just Kennedy’s name that’s throwing people for a loop. It’s also his campaign artwork, ubiquitous on Middle Georgia roadsides right now — three simple bands of red, white and blue with “John F. Kennedy” written in a retro font across the middle.
That reminds Mercer University political science professor Chris Grant of something.
“It’s very reminiscent of the 'John F. Kennedy for President' branding from the 1960 campaign,” Grant said.
Grant concedes that it is a rather generic design, “but it is something that you would immediately look at as something a little nostalgic,” he said. “It is vintage, if you will.”
But that association is not intentional, Kennedy said.
“I hired a group out of Atlanta, and the only suggestions I made going into it was, I said, I really like traditional red, white and blue letters, and I don’t like anything really weird looking,” he said.
“Everybody seemed to gravitate toward this one graphic that they came up with.”
But when reached on the phone for comment, Jay Williams of the Stoneridge Group said he absolutely was thinking of President Kennedy when he did the artwork. Williams figured it would get his candidate attention.
“I mean, how many stories have you done on political campaign identity? The fact that you’re doing one now proves that we’re getting folks talking about him,” Williams said.
The strategy certainly isn’t about getting crossover votes for Kennedy. He faces no Democratic opponent, only Thomaston physician and conservative commentator Spencer Price in the GOP primary May 20. Price didn’t respond to repeated requests for an interview.
So, a man named JFK is left courting conservatives only — and it might not be such a stretch.
Georgia did go “Kennedy” in 1960.