US & Canada

Congressman Joe Kennedy III eyes Massachusetts Senate seat

Congressman Joe Kennedy Image copyright Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Image caption Joe Kennedy is eyeing a bid for US Senate

Massachusetts congressman Joseph Kennedy III, grandson of assassinated presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, is considering a Senate run.

"I'm thinking about what I have to offer," he said. "What is most important in this political moment, and what kind of party Democrats need."

Mr Kennedy may have to take on fellow Democrat who already holds the seat, Senator Edward Markey.

A fight between the two could become 2020's most high-profile primary.

Facing mounting speculation about a challenge from Mr Kennedy, Mr Markey confirmed last week he would be seeking re-election.

Image copyright Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Image caption Senator Edward Markey has been a fixture of Massachusetts politics for more than four decades

"Oh, I'm running," the 73-year-old congressional veteran told the New York Times newspaper. "This is the most energised I've ever been in my entire career."

Mr Markey went on to praise John, Robert and Edward Kennedy - Mr Kennedy's famous family members - as "inspirational figures".

Joe Kennedy III, currently serving his fourth term in Congress, is seen as leader of the political dynasty's next generation.

Preparing for generational battle

It's been 10 years since Edward Kennedy's death ended his 46-year career representing Massachusetts in the US Senate. In fact, the Kennedy brothers - John, Robert and Edward - served a combined 66 years in the chamber.

Now Robert's grandson, Joe Kennedy, appears to be itching to add to that number.

Standing between Mr Kennedy and what some might consider his birthright, however, is Edward Markey - a popular long-serving Massachusetts politician who says he wants to run for re-election in 2020.

That sets up what could be a generational conflict between the 73-year-old incumbent and the 38-year-old Kennedy - and an uncomfortable fight within the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

Of course, this could all work itself out if Elizabeth Warren, the other Massachusetts senator, were to win the presidency, prompting a special election to fill her seat. Perhaps the young Kennedy figures one way or another, there's going to be a shake-up in the state and he wants to start getting his name in voters' minds.

With a last name like his, however, that was never going to be much in doubt.

The 38-year-old rising Democratic star delivered his party's response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in 2018.

"I hear the folks who say I should wait my turn, but with due respect - I'm not sure this is a moment for waiting," he wrote on Facebook on Monday.

"Our system has been letting down a lot of people for a long time, and we can't fix it if we don't challenge it."

Mr Kennedy said he would consider the strain of a Senate run on his young family before making a decision. The congressman and his wife, Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, have two children under the age of four.

Image copyright Tom Williams/Getty Images
Image caption Joe Kennedy and Senator Elizabeth Warren at the Democratic National Convention in 2016

The pair met in a Harvard Law School class taught by Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, who is currently the second US senator for Massachusetts, along with Mr Markey.

A group called Jump in, Joe! has already pushed voters online to encourage Mr Kennedy to launch a challenge in the Senate.

"We believe that the United States Senate needs a proactive progressive leader like Joe Kennedy III," the group said on its Facebook page. "This is not about the incumbent, but rather about the vision and leadership Joe can bring to the Senate."

Before serving in Congress, Mr Kennedy attended Stanford University as an undergraduate and spent two years serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. After Harvard Law School, he became a district attorney.

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