BOSTON – Joseph Kennedy III, the first of his famous political family's generation to seek elective office, defeated two little-known Democrats in Thursday's primary in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.
Kennedy, 31, will face Republican Sean Bielat or Elizabeth Childs in the November election for the seat currently held by longtime liberal Democratic Rep. Barney Frank.
Kennedy is the son of Joseph P. Kennedy II, who represented the state's 8th Congressional District for six terms from 1987-1999, and the grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, the younger Kennedy served in the Peace Corps, worked as a prosecutor in Massachusetts and in 2006 co-managed with his twin brother Matt the final campaign of their great-uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died of cancer in 2009.
Unofficial early returns from Thursday's primary gave Kennedy around 90 percent of the vote. He was facing Herb Robinson, a software engineer and Rachel Brown, a follower of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.
Kennedy, with the acknowledged help of family connections, raised more than $3 million for his campaign through mid-August, more than any incumbent in the Massachusetts House delegation.
In a recent interview, Kennedy said he was proud of his family's legacy but determined to earn votes on his own. He also said that public office was not something he always aspired to and that his decision to run stemmed from life experiences and his desire to help people.
"I obviously grew up in politics for a long time, but this is not something I said at an early age, `This is what I really want to go do,"' he said. "I have had a number of opportunities in my life where you see what happens when people are playing against a stacked deck."
The past two years marked the first time since the election of his great-uncle John F. Kennedy to the House in 1946 that a member of the Kennedy family had not served in elective office in Washington.
The victory came shortly after his cousin Caroline Kennedy addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., telling delegates that the re-election of President Barack Obama is as important to the future of the country as the 1960 election of her father.
Bielat, who won plaudits from Republicans for a spirited campaign against Frank two years ago, could again be the decided underdog in the November election.
Republicans point out the southern portion of the district includes several cities with large numbers of independents and conservative-leaning Democrats who voted for GOP Sen. Scott Brown in a January 2010 special election following Ted Kennedy's death.
Joe Kennedy said he was ready for the inevitable bumps and bruises that will come with the fall campaign, but also sounded an echo of his great-uncle's legendary ability to reach across the aisle.
"Republicans aren't bad people," he said. "They've got some views that are legitimate ... and I'd like to think they believe the same of me."