America's Next Top Kennedy

Joe III is the new Kennedy on the block, and his campaign for Congress inevitably has Bay Staters thinking of Camelot
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 18, 2012

COULD THIS MAN REVIVE CAMELOT? It’s hard to overstate the level of interest Joe Kennedy III’s campaign announcement engenders in Massachusetts.
We are all mere mortals, Massachusetts pols like to say, and they are Kennedys. That reality helps explain the constant stream of political speculation surrounding members of that clan in the two and a half years since the death of Senator Edward Kennedy in 2009.

Many — myself included — were convinced that the widow Vicki Kennedy would run for his seat in the Senate. Others insisted that his nephew, former congressman Joe Kennedy II, would take on that challenge. After Ted Kennedy Jr. delivered an engaging and emotional eulogy for his father, rumors ran rampant that he would move back from Connecticut to run for office. Caroline Kennedy, who took a high-profile whiff at winning a Senate appointment in New York to succeed Hillary Clinton, was similarly rumored to be considering a Bay State return. And Joe's twin sons, Joe Kennedy III and Matthew Kennedy, were floated for any number of races, including the congressional district containing the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, which Bill Delahunt vacated in 2010; and the special election for State Senate, just won by William Brownsberger earlier this month.

Finally, we have more than rumor and speculation. Joe III has opened an exploratory committee in preparation for a campaign in the state's Fourth Congressional District, to succeed Barney Frank.

It's hard to overstate the level of interest Kennedy's announcement engenders in this state. It is the first political run by a Kennedy since Ted's death. Ted's son Patrick Kennedy chose not to run for re-election to Congress in Rhode Island in 2010, leaving Washington without an elected member of the storied family for the first time in more than a half-century.

Perhaps even more important, 31-year-old Joe is the first of the so-called fifth-generation Kennedys to seek office. He and Matt are among the oldest of some six dozen (and counting) members of that cohort, which includes Cuomos, Lawfords, Schlossbergs, Schwarzeneggers, Shrivers, and Townsends.

Perhaps if the first of that crop came from one of those branches, with a different last name — or in another state, or while there were still members of the older generations in office — it could be just a slight novelty.

But the first campaign of this generation comes here in Massachusetts, in the form of a handsome young man who, but for the startling red hair, looks like he belongs right in those old photos of the young JFK, Teddy, and his grandfather Bobby.

There is no escaping it: Kennedy will be scrutinized not merely as a potential representative of the fourth district, but as The One, the next great Kennedy, the liberal hope — the man who could bring the revival of Camelot.


Kennedy, currently a prosecutor in the Middlesex District Attorney's office, is not yet speaking with the press. He is, however, rapidly assembling a campaign team that is said to include Nick Clemons, Doug Rubin, Tom Kiley, Brian O'Connor, and his brother Matt.

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Related: Photos: 'The Kennedys' at Peabody Essex Museum, The Kennedys will rise again!, Cleaning up after DiMasi, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Politics, Kennedys, mass politics,  More more >
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