Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy III, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, won election to replace retiring U.S. Representative Barney Frank, returning a member of the Irish-American clan to Washington after a year’s absence.
The win for Kennedy, 32, came on the same night that voters elected Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, to be the first woman ever sent to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. Kennedy beat Republican Sean Bielat, 61 percent to 36 percent, according to the Associated Press, with 80 percent of precincts counted.
“Our victory tonight is a testament to the incredible efforts of thousands of volunteers across the district that spent the past year working tirelessly for the country they believe in,” Kennedy said in a statement.
It was his first bid for elective office. At least one member of the storied political family had served in Congress or the White House continuously for 63 years until Patrick Kennedy retired as a representative from Rhode Island in January 2011. All were Democrats. Kennedy, the son of former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, served as a county prosecutor in Massachusetts before entering the race this year.
“Democrats and independent voters know what the Kennedy name means in terms of policy,” Peter Ubertaccio, director of Stonehill College’s Martin Institute for Law and Society in Easton, Massachusetts, said before the election results were known. “It’s a cue to voters. It’s pretty powerful.”
Kennedy follows a legacy that includes the service of his grandfather, a U.S. senator from New York, and his grandfather’s brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who died in office in 2009. His campaign reflected those connections, raising more than $4 million in donations, more than any other House candidate in the state, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
A Stanford University and Harvard Law School graduate, Kennedy served in the Peace Corps -- an organization created by President Kennedy -- in the Dominican Republic before becoming a prosecutor on Cape Cod, home to the Hyannis Port seaside compound owned for generations by his family. He later moved to assistant Middlesex County district attorney in suburban Boston.
Bielat, 37, is a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and a graduate of Harvard University’s John. F. Kennedy School of Government and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. In 2010, he challenged Frank for the Fourth District seat unsuccessfully. The district, redrawn since that election, stretches from the wealthy Boston suburbs of Brookline and Newton to some of the poorest cities, such as Fall River.
Frank, a Democrat who turned 72 in March, said late last year that he wouldn’t seek re-election after the once-a-decade redistricting process pushed different communities into his territory and removed some that had been in it for years.
Warren, 63, will occupy the seat long held by Kennedy’s uncle, Ted, after she ousted Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Brown, 53, claimed the post in a January 2010 special election after the senator died in office in August 2009, ending a Senate career of almost 47 years.
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