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Joe Kennedy III
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Massachusetts's 4th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Barney Frank|
Joseph Patrick Kennedy III
October 4, 1980
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Lauren Birchfield (m. 2012)
|Parents||Joseph P. Kennedy II (Father) Sheila Brewster Rauch (Mother)|
|Relatives||See Kennedy family|
|Education||Stanford University (BS)|
Harvard University (JD)
Joseph Patrick Kennedy III (born October 4, 1980), is an American lawyer and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts's 4th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, his congressional district extends from the western suburbs of Boston to the state's South Coast. A son of former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, he worked as a Peace Corps volunteer and as an assistant district attorney in the Cape and Islands and Middlesex County, Massachusetts offices before his election to Congress.
Kennedy is a grandson of U.S. Senator and former United States Attorney General Robert F. "Bobby" Kennedy, a grand-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, and a great-grandson of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. His great-grandmother Rose Kennedy was the daughter of John F. Fitzgerald, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Mayor of Boston.
Born in Brighton, Massachusetts, Kennedy was raised in the Boston area with his twin brother, Matthew Rauch "Matt" Kennedy. After graduating from Stanford University he spent two years in the Dominican Republic as a member of the Peace Corps, and earned his J.D. degree at Harvard Law School in 2009. He resigned as a prosecutor in early 2012 to run for the seat held by retiring Congressman Barney Frank. He was sworn into office in January 2013 and sits on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Kennedy was born October 4, 1980 in Brighton, a neighborhood of Boston, to Sheila Brewster (Rauch) and Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy II. He was born eight minutes after his fraternal twin brother, Matthew. He and Matt are the eldest grandsons of Senator Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy and Ethel Skakel. Kennedy was raised in Brighton and in the coastal town of Marshfield, also spending summers on Cape Cod. From birth, Kennedy was engulfed in politics; in 1980, his parents were working on the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, the boys' great-uncle. Kennedy's father was elected to Congress in 1986. The pressures of political life strained Joseph and Sheila's marriage, and they divorced in 1991. The twins spent the following years moving between Brighton and Cambridge.
After graduating from the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Kennedy along with his brother enrolled in Stanford University, where he majored in management science and engineering. Kennedy's reputation as a teetotaler earned him the college nickname "Milkman", as his teammates on the club lacrosse team would jokingly order him glasses of milk at bars. While at Stanford, Kennedy roomed with future NBA player Jason Collins.
After graduating in 2003, Kennedy joined the Peace Corps; a fluent speaker of Spanish, he worked in the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic from 2004 to 2006, helping local tour guides in the 27 Charcos reserve in the Río Damajagua Park. He reorganized the group with some outside backing, directing the guides to rebuild parts of the park and develop skills to make the operation more attractive to tourists. "We basically created a union," said Kennedy, who reported that the group's efforts won higher wages for employees while improving revenue for the tour companies. According to a press release, his other activities in the Peace Corps included "stints as an Anti-Poverty Consultant for the Office of the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and a Research Analyst for the United Nations Development Program."
In April 2006, Kennedy returned to Massachusetts, where he and his brother co-chaired Ted Kennedy's re-election campaign. That fall, Kennedy enrolled in Harvard Law School. While in school, Kennedy worked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, providing legal aid to low-income tenants with foreclosure cases in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. He also worked as a technical editor for the Harvard Human Rights Journal, on a staff with his classmate and future wife, Lauren Anne Birchfield. In 2007 he and Birchfield co-founded Picture This: Justice and Power, an after-school program for youths in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood. He began an internship at the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office in 2008.
After receiving his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 2009, Kennedy was hired at the Cape and Islands Office as an assistant district attorney (DA). He considered running for the Cape-based U.S. House seat held by retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt in early 2010, but decided against it. In September 2011, he joined the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, also as an assistant DA. He resigned several months later, in preparation for the announcement that he would seek political office.
In January 2012, Kennedy announced he would form an exploratory committee to run in the newly redrawn 4th congressional district of Massachusetts. Congressman Barney Frank, who had previously represented the district, had announced his retirement, leaving an open field for the seat. Kennedy explained, "I will then begin to reach out to the people of the Fourth District in order to hear directly from them about the challenges they are facing and their ideas on how we can restore fairness to our system. I will make a final decision about entering the race in the weeks thereafter."
Kennedy officially entered the election in February 2012. In an announcement video, Kennedy declared, "I believe this country was founded on a simple idea: that every person deserves to be treated fairly, by each other and by their government." In the same video, Kennedy vowed to fight for a "fair job plan", a "better educational system", a "fair tax code" and a "fair housing policy".
While several Democratic candidates had prepared to enter the race, the field nearly cleared once Kennedy announced his candidacy. His family roots made him the overwhelming favorite among Massachusetts Democrats. In the September 6 primary, he faced Rachel Brown, a Lyndon LaRouche acolyte; and Herb Robinson, an engineer and musician, winning the primary with 90 percent of the vote.
In the general election campaign he faced Republican nominee Sean Bielat, a technology executive and member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Bielat had run an unsuccessful campaign against Barney Frank in the 2010 election for the 4th district seat. In a series of debates, Bielat challenged Kennedy's qualifications for Congress, saying that the Democrat's campaign was coasting on name recognition rather than experience, and that he would be a party-line vote. Kennedy tried to tie Bielat to the budget platform of U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, although Bielat responded that he only supported parts of the plan. Kennedy raised over $4 million in support of his campaign, far exceeding Bielat's draw of around $900,000. Kennedy won the November 6 election with 61 percent of the vote to Bielat's 36 percent.
In the 2014 election Joseph P. Kennedy III ran unopposed in the primary election and in the general election. On November 4, 2014, Kennedy was re-elected, winning a second term with 184,158 votes or 97.91%.
In 2016, after running unopposed in the Democratic primary, Kennedy was re-elected to a third term, defeating Republican David Rosa by a margin of more than 40 percentage points. On November 6, 2016, Kennedy was re-elected, winning a 3rd term with 265,823 votes or 70.10%
Kennedy was mentioned as a potential candidate for the 2018 Massachusetts gubernatorial election but declined, stating that he intended to run for re-election to the House of Representatives and did not have plans to run for any other office. He was re-elected unopposed.
|115th Congress (2017–19)|
Kennedy was sworn into the 113th U.S. Congress on January 3, 2013, and was assigned to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He praised the technology committee assignment as an opportunity to secure federal funding, including National Science Foundation and Small Business Innovation Research grants, for life sciences companies in his district. As a freshman in his party, he was unable to secure a seat on the Education Committee which he had sought.
During a February science committee hearing, he questioned Texas Instruments president Richard Templeton regarding the company's efforts to compensate cancer-stricken former employees of its Attleboro, Massachusetts, nuclear facility. A prolific fundraiser, he launched his political action committee, the 4MA PAC, in April. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he traveled in May with four other legislators to Afghanistan, where they met with President Hamid Karzai and members of the military. That month he was named chairman of Governor Deval Patrick's STEM Advisory Council.
On July 24, 2013, Kennedy was one of seven members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) who voted against the Amash-Conyers amendment to limit Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which tried to restrict NSA surveillance programs. In contrast, a majority of both CPC members and of Democratic members of Congress voted for the amendment, while Kennedy stood out as a supporter of the party leadership. His vote has been criticized as a sign for a lack of commitment to civil liberties.
On January 26, 2018, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he would deliver the Democratic response to President Donald Trump's 2018 State of the Union address. The selection of Kennedy to give the Democratic response came after criticism that the Democratic Party relied too heavily on its oldest leaders since the 2016 presidential election. In choosing Kennedy, the party was seen as trying to bridge the gap with a new face attached to one of the most famous names in American politics. He addressed the television cameras and a live studio audience in the automotive body shop of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School at Fall River, Massachusetts. He is the second member of his family to give the Democratic response, after his great uncle Ted Kennedy replied to the 1982 State of the Union Address. During his response to the 2018 State of the Union, he praised Black Lives Matter and spoke in Spanish with regards to children who were brought into the United States illegally when they were minors.
On January 30, 2018 Congressman Kennedy delivered the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. He gave the nationally televised speech while in the auto shop of the Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River, Massachusetts. The location emphasized the role that immigrants have in American society. He spent the opening minutes boasting about the economy and industrial history of Fall River, a city in his district. His audience was made up of, among other people, students from the Diman Regional Technical School.
In the speech, he took numerous swings at President Trump. He criticized Trump’s Department of Justice for “rolling back civil rights by the day” and attacked the administration for “targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.” He accused Trump of turning American life “into a zero-sum game.” He made clear the Democrats’ intentions to aid the middle and lower classes and rebuked President Trump's political agenda. Kennedy closed out the speech by characterizing the state of the union as “hopeful, resilient, enduring.” Following his speech, a majority of the media coverage focused on the appearance of his lips (which had a shiny drool appearance). Millions of Twitter users began tweeting about his lips during and after the speech. The representative later explained it was his chap stick that was applied quickly to his lips and below his nose, as well as around his lips. As a result of this, many voters tend to identify the representative as the person with the shiny mouth who delivered the response to the State of the Union, which has overshadowed his message and has contributed to his public image.
Kennedy married health policy lawyer Lauren Anne Birchfield (born September 21, 1984) in Corona del Mar, California, on December 1, 2012. The couple met in a Harvard Law School class taught by future senator Elizabeth Warren. On December 29, 2015, Birchfield gave birth to their daughter, Eleanor "Ellie" Kennedy. On December 20, 2017, Kennedy announced the birth of their second child, son James Matthew Kennedy. The family lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 4th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Response to the State of the Union address
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority