updated 5/9/2006 10:03:57 AM ET 2006-05-09T14:03:57

Democrats endorsed an absent Rep. Patrick Kennedy, being treated for addiction to prescription pain drugs, for re-election Monday night at their state convention.

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Kennedy checked into the Mayo Clinic on 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 crash in three weeks.

Republicans have said Kennedy should step aside because he can’t fulfill his duties. But Democratic leaders said Monday night that he has done a good job and deserves support in his battle with addiction.

“We do not walk away from our friends,” Democratic Party Chairman Bill Lynch said.

Kennedy has talked openly about battling addiction and mental health problems for years. 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 current controversy surrounding him would not exist if he suffered from another disease.

“We treat physical illness and mental health very different in this country,” U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin said.

6 terms in Congress
Kennedy has been elected to six terms in Congress. He is the son of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and the nephew of President Kennedy and senator and attorney general Robert Kennedy.

His supporters describe him as a hardworking legislator skilled at bringing money back to Rhode Island.

“Patrick Kennedy has a famous last name, but that famous last name is not why people continue to re-elect him,” Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty said. “He has earned the confidence of the people in this state.”

Kennedy sits on the House Appropriations Committee and has said he steered roughly $100 million to Rhode Island in 2005. That money was divided among cities and towns to help them buy equipment for police, upgrade water systems, renovate senior centers and address other local needs, Kennedy’s spokeswoman Robin Costello said.

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