Jan. 5, 2012
BOSTON — For the first time in 60 years, there's no Kennedy in office. But that could be about to change: Joseph P. Kennedy III, the grandson of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and son of former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, is forming an exploratory committee to consider a bid for Congress in 2012, when Rep. Barney Frank retires.
Phil Johnston, a close friend of the Kennedy family and former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Committee, sees in young Joe Kennedy the promise of another legendary public official: "I think he'll make the same kind of mark that his father and his uncles made and I think it will be a mark and heritage everyone will be very proud of here in Massachusetts," Johnston said.
In a written statement, Kennedy said he will leave his job at the Middlesex District Attorney's office in two weeks and will then begin speaking to voters in the newly drawn 4th Congressional District, which stretches from Newton to Fall River, before making a final decision. Kennedy, who is unmarried, doesn't live in the district. He said he's been staying with his dad in Brighton and his mom in Cambridge since taking a new job in September.
At only 31 years old, he would be the first Kennedy of his generation to run for public office. The Congressional hopeful is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He worked in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic before working as a prosecutor in the Cape and Islands and then in Middlesex County.
So far, the only other candidates in the race for the open 4th District seat to succeed Barney Frank are Democrat Herb Robinson, an engineer from Newton, and Republican Elizabeth Childs, a school committee member from Brookline.
If Kennedy runs, he'll face intense scrutiny. Democratic analyst Warren Tolman predicted that he would rise to the challenge:
"He’s been chair of his Uncle Ted’s re-election effort a few years back. He grew up with it — his dad was a congressman so he’s used to this, to being around kitchen table conversations. He’s also a smart kid. And he didn’t jump in a few years ago when he had some opportunities: He’s waited, he’s bided his time," Tolman said.
At the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis, reaction was mostly positive.
Jennifer Lynch, a Centerville resident, also noted the family tradition. “He’s learned a lot about politics, I’m sure, from childhood on up. So he will also have a lot of advice on politics from everyone in his family,” she said.
Alisha Semprini works at the museum. She thought Kennedy's age could work in his favor. “I think that his youth is beneficial to him. I think that he will connect with the younger generation and demographics," she said. "Myself, I’m also 31, I feel very excited about it. I think he would be very in tune with our generation."
Hyannis business-owner Ian Parent was less enthused. “He does have the name," he said. "The name has been around a long, long time in politics. Hopefully he learned something along the way. But you know, I’m more of a Republican-side myself.”