In his well-executed congressional-campaign launch two weeks ago, Joe Kennedy III took advantage of the intense media interest generated by his family bloodline to convey the message that he wishes to be viewed independently of those family ties.
THE NAME GAME Congressional hopeful Joe Kennedy III insists he'll run a campaign independent of his illustrious family name. Can he also steer clear of Camelot?
It seemed to be effective. Kennedy appeared without supporting help from his kin, including his former congressman father, or the many high-profile politicians who would have gladly stood beside him — including Barney Frank, whose retirement leaves the open seat for which Kennedy vies. He took questions from the media that swarmed him, at hand-shaking stops in Newton, Milford, and Attleboro, and stuck pleasantly on message: he is proud of his family's legacy of service, Kennedy said repeatedly, but it would be his name alone on the ballot, and he would work hard to earn each and every vote.
The Kennedy-crazy media got its fix, gave generally positive coverage of the rollout, and then turned its attention elsewhere — Kennedy's campaign has been able to operate largely unmolested by the scrum of cameras and reporters since then. Three days after being mobbed at Morin's Hometown Bar & Grille in Attleboro, he was back in that city for a meet-and-greet that, according to the Sun Chronicle, "featured none of the media hoopla that surrounded Kennedy's initial appearance in the city." The same has held true as he visited local Democratic Party caucuses during the past two weeks.
"It goes without saying that the quieter media atmosphere post-announcement makes it easier to have these important one-on-one conversations," Kennedy spokesperson Kyle Sullivan says, via e‑mail.
But this past weekend, several developments demonstrated just how ubiquitous the Kennedy family can be — and how difficult it may be to keep those extensive ties from seeping into the 31-year-old attorney's campaign.
The biggest of these incidents came in the blockbuster US Senate contest between incumbent Scott Brown and likely Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren.
Brown has taken a strong stance for "conscience clause" exemptions, to allow Catholic institutions to opt out of providing health insurance that pays for contraception and other services. He co-sponsored the so-called Blunt amendment, which, opponents contend, would extend such exemptions far more broadly, to all employers with moral objections to any type of health care. (See "Scott Brown, Crazy Person," Editorial, February 24.)
In response to Warren's criticism, Brown ran a radio ad claiming that Blunt amendment provisions were supported by none other than Ted Kennedy.
The debate over the late senator's position on "conscience clause" exemptions has dominated the Senate campaign — and led former congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island (who is holding a fundraiser for Joe next week) to publicly call for Brown to retract the claims about his father.
The candidate has avoided diving into the controversy. In response to a Phoenix inquiry, the campaign e‑mails that "Joe strongly believes in universal access to health care — and that includes contraception for women. He supports President Obama's efforts to find a way to balance religious principles and health-care access."