UCLA sophomore Richard Salazar of Placentia wondered if the candidate would measure up to "the God-like image of the Kennedys."
Laguna Beach Councilman Bob Gentry had heard the young man's father speak and wondered if he would be as good.
And urban planner Dina Tasini of Huntington Beach was curious about the mystique of the Kennedy name--"whether it really elects people."
They and about 200 other Orange County Democrats crowded into the bar of Copa de Ora, a Costa Mesa restaurant, Monday night to hear Joseph P. Kennedy, 33, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, discuss his campaign for Congress.
Kennedy, who is running for the Boston-area seat formerly held by his uncle John F. Kennedy and now being vacated by retiring House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill, drew cheers as he talked about his father and "Uncle Jack" and their shared concern for social values.
"It's about time we had a government that wasn't interested in investing in oil and gas but in our greatest investment, its people," Kennedy told members and guests of the county's Democratic Associates, who paid $25 each to hear him. The appearance was a benefit for the Democrats' voter registration drive.
Kennedy, founder of a successful company that delivers low-cost heating oil to the needy, added that if Americans are concerned about poverty or unemployment, the solutions lie in "hard work. That's what's going to solve the problems. Not a bunch of new ideas."
He drew the loudest applause when he exhorted the crowd to help with voter registration.
Calls for Registration
"The Republicans of Orange County have a reputation. It's about time that the Democrats of Orange County have their own reputation. Folks, the power is in your hands. . . . You go out and you get people registered in Orange County," he said.
Kennedy has been in Southern California since Thursday, raising money for a September primary race that has drawn more than a dozen contenders. But the Orange County stop was just "developmental," said Kennedy's brother and finance director Michael Kennedy, 28.
As Kennedy finished his speech, the family's political mystique appeared to be working. The candidate was surrounded by dozens of young Democrats, mostly women, who grasped him by the hand and posed for pictures beside him.