Kennedy's Profile On The Rise As Democrats Push To Retake The House

Mar 27, 2018

Kennedy mingles at a Democratic unity event in Attleboro last Saturday.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

ATTLEBORO -- Considering his famous last name, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III has kept a relatively low profile.

The grandson of Robert Kennedy first won election to Congress in 2012, and for the most part Kennedy stayed out of the limelight. But Kennedy has been getting more attention since delivering the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address earlier this year.

Kennedy said if Democrats can retake the U.S. House of Representatives this November, it would serve as a counter-balance to Trump and his agenda.

"I think, one, you’ll have far more balanced priorities coming forward out of Washington. I wish this administration would have come in with that focus. They didn’t. They put forward some highly partisan efforts around taxes and healthcare."

We spoke as Kennedy headed into an Attleboro Democrats unity event at the Murray Unitarian Universalist Church on Saturday. The first thing you notice is Kennedy’s shock of red hair. Once introduced, he got a rousing welcome from supporters on his home turf.

Kennedy says a Democratic-controlled House would mean more accountability.

"It means accountability on these probes into what actually happened with regards to the Trump campaign and Russia, whether there was any actual collusion or not. We saw the intelligence committee led by Republicans close down their investigation, over the objection of every single Democrat, without subpoenaing key witnesses or releasing those transcripts to have some sort of public discussion."

Kennedy represents Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District, which stretches from the affluent Boston suburbs to Fall River and other towns in southeastern Massachusetts. He’s 37 years old, and won re-election in 2016 with 70 percent of the vote.

Kennedy has yet to attract a Republican challenger this year.

But fellow Democrat, Gary Rucinski, thinks Congress is not doing enough about climate change, so he’s staging a primary challenge to Kennedy. Rucinkski stood outside the Attleboro Democrats’ event ahead of Kennedy’s visit. Rucinski said imposing a fee on the emission of greenhouse gases would spark a clean energy revolution in the free market.

"I know a lot of people will say ‘fee, tax – that’s just going to drive up my prices,’ " Rucinski said. "But really what we want to do is take 100 percent of the proceeds from that and return it to households on a flat basis.”

Despite the challenge from Rucinski, Kennedy remains a favorite for re-election to a fourth term in Congress. Around here, the Kennedy name plays well with Democratic voters. And if Democrats do retake the House in November, Massachusetts’ congressional delegation will gain more influence.