Wednesday 20 September 2017

The red-headed Kennedy who aims to revive a dynasty

Raf Sanchez Somerset, Massachusetts

The moment Joe Kennedy III steps into the church hall he is thronged by elderly women and the ghosts of his family.

Their spirits appear in different forms -- one woman produces a photograph of Senator Ted Kennedy in his prime, another offers a childhood memory about an early JFK election rally -- but they travel with the young congressional candidate everywhere he goes.

"The Kennedys mean so much to people here," says Arlene Silvia, a 61-year-old nurse, as she watches Robert Kennedy's grandson shake hands and laugh off suggestions that he begin running for president.

"And he looks just like them. Well, except for the red hair."

Mr Kennedy, still only 32, is running for Congress in Massachusetts's Fourth District and is determined to prove he has more to offer than his famous name and his resemblance to some of the best-known figures in American politics.

"It's important for me that people understand that I'm running -- it's not my grandfather, it's not my father, it's not either one of my grandfather's brothers or anyone else in my family," he said at the end of his fourth campaign event of the day.

"It's my name on the ballot and I have got to go out there and let people know who I am and what I stand for."

For now, he is a blank slate that others project on to. The Harvard Law School graduate served in the Peace Corps, a US government programme to send volunteers to developing countries, and worked for only two years as a state prosecutor before announcing his congressional bid, creating little record for voters to judge.

Sean Bielat, a former US marine running against Mr Kennedy, dismisses his rival as "a guy with a famous name" and no qualifications.

"A little over two centuries ago Massachusetts fought against this whole hereditary monarchy thing and now some people embrace it," he said.

Lew Flagg, a Republican activist, puts it even more sharply: "The Kennedys are like a cult around here."

Whether November 6 will be an election or a coronation in the Fourth District is a matter of debate. Mr Bielat ran hard against the seat's current Democrat in 2010 and has benefited from boundary changes making the constituency more conservative.

However, Mr Kennedy has a financial advantage, and while there have been no recent polls, the campaign believes it is ahead. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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