NEW YORK -- The Kennedy clan has long been considered America’s leading political family. Currently, there are no Kennedys holding any political office in Washington, D.C., but a member of the next generation is trying to revive the family tradition.
It was 1946 when John F. Kennedy was first elected to the House of Representatives, and for the next 63 years, there was always at least one member of the Kennedy family in the U.S. Congress. Two years ago that streak ended. Now in the Boston suburbs, a young Kennedy is running for Congress, hoping to put the family dynasty back on the national stage.
Joe Kennedy III is the grandson of Robert Kennedy. President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy were his great uncles, and he carries the name of the famous family patriarch, his great-grandfather, Joe.
There are certain advantages to running for Congress as a Kennedy in Massachusetts. And that’s especially true when you look so much like a Kennedy.
Though returning the family name to office is his current aim, many of Kennedy’s fans believe a seat in the House is little more than a stepping stone. Adding to the burden of high expectations, some in Massachusetts just assume he’ll follow in the footsteps of JFK. Told he’s been described by some of his constituents as the future president, Kennedy replied, “You know, I’m grateful for their support and their enthusiasm,” but downplayed the grander expectations, saying “I’ve won one primary.”
His Republican opponent Sean Bielat has said Kennedy is simply running on the family name, and that the 31-year-old’s two years in the Peace Corps and three years as a prosecutor hardly qualify him to run for Congress.
“I don’t think in any other state, in any other district in the country, people would consider you qualified for this office. Other than fame that comes with your family and the money that comes with it, you don’t have the background,” he told Kennedy in a recent debate.
Kennedy says he’ll win - or lose - as a candidate, not a name. He told CBS News, “What we’ve been doing from the very beginning in this campaign is trying to get out there and let people know that I am the one running, and that I’ve got to earn people’s trust.”
Being a Kennedy also has its difficulties, including the frequent tabloid distractions, such as the fact that his 18-year-old cousin, Conor Kennedy, is dating recording superstar Taylor Swift.
Asked if he’s a fan of Swift’s now, Kennedy laughed and said, “Taylor is a remarkable young woman and I think that she and my cousin are doing well.”
A political analyst in Massachusetts says Kennedy is favored to win the race. The name does help, but the fact that the district has been represented by liberal Democrat Barney Frank for 32 years is an added benefit.
Kennedy has made the race a family affair. His twin brother, Matt, has been out campaigning, as well his cousins, father, former Congressman Joe Kennedy, and his grandmother, Ethel Kennedy.
Kennedy has not always wanted to run for office. In fact, his career path has zigzagged from majoring in engineering in college, to the Peace Corps, then into economic development, and then to law school at Harvard and consequently to becoming a prosecutor. Only now, as he’s about to turn 32 does he say he’s ready to join the family business. He says that if you’re going to get into politics, especially as a Kennedy, you got to be absolutely certain it’s what you want to do because if you’re not absolutely certain, if you’re kind of faking it, people will pick up on it immediately and will vote against you. He said only now is he absolutely certain.
Of course, it helps that a seat has opened up - and he’s a Kennedy.