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Joseph Kennedy III announces congressional campaign

Newton, MA. 02/16/12, Joe Kennedy III officially launches his campaign for Congress Thursday, by visiting spots around the district. He greets commuters and supporters in Newton. Section: Metro Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staffNewton, MA. 02/16/12, Joe Kennedy III officially launches his campaign for Congress Thursday, by visiting spots around the district. He greets commuters and supporters in Newton. Section: Metro Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Joseph P. Kennedy III officially launched his campaign for Congress today by visiting spots around the district. This morning, he greeted commuters and supporters in Newton.

Joseph P. Kennedy III, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the son of former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, shook hands and spoke to voters this morning at the Newton Centre MBTA stop, on the first day of his official campaign for Congress.

“I’m very, very proud of my family’s record of public service -- to the Commonwealth and to the country. But this campaign, any campaign, is going to be about the issues, and about who goes out and earns it,” he told reporters after greeting supporters as well as commuters gathered on both the inbound and outbound platforms.

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“For me, it’s been an absolute pleasure to ... listen to the concerns of people in the district, and to get a sense that the message I care about is one that they care about as well,” he said. He planned stops at four other locations later today in the district.

Kennedy had formally declared his candidacy in a video announcement that was released earlier this morning.

“You can always count on me to fight for small businesses, seniors, veterans, and for you to make sure you get the constituent service you’ve come to expect,” Kennedy said in the three-minute video.

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He said that if elected, his priorities would include a fair tax code, job growth, and a 21st-century energy policy.

He also touted his recent experience as a prosecutor and an advocate for low-income residents during his studies at Harvard Law School, as well as his time as a Peace Corps volunteer.

“As an assistant district attorney, I fought for fairness every day in the courtroom,” Kennedy said. “I volunteered in a legal aid clinic when I was a law student, helping tenants who were mistreated by landlords and banks.”

Kennedy also gave a nod to his family legacy in announcing his run for the congressional seat being vacated by US Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat, after 32 years on Capitol Hill.

“My family has had the great privilege of serving Massachusetts before,” he said. “They taught me that public service is an honor, given in trust, and that trust must be earned each and every day. That’s exactly what I intend to do.”

“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, but that’s not happening in America anymore,” Kennedy said in a statement on Wednesday night.

“I’ve spoken to people from across the Fourth Congressional District -- from Newton to Fall River -- who believe that Washington no longer works for them. I will work hard to earn every vote and if elected bring that fight for fairness to the US Congress,” he added.

Three lesser-known Democrats, Herb Robinson, Paul Heroux, and Jules Levine, are also competing for their party’s nomination, as are at least two Republicans, Sean Bielat, a former Marine who challenged Frank for reelection in 2010, and Elizabeth Childs, a Brookline psychiatrist.

The announcement is perhaps the least surprising in recent Massachusetts political history, coming a month-and-a-half after Kennedy announced he was forming a congressional exploratory committee.

He subsequently quit his job as an assistant Middlesex district attorney, moved to Brookline from his mother’s home in Cambridge, arranged a series of fund-raisers in Washington next week, and received several high-profile labor endorsements from the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union.

Today’s events codify his desire to be the first member of his famed political family to return to Washington since his cousin, former US Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, ended his own service in the US House last year.

His grandfather and his late uncle, Edward M. Kennedy, both served in the Senate, while his uncle John F. Kennedy served in the US House and US Senate before being elected president in 1960.

His fund-raisers next Wednesday will take place on what would have been Edward Kennedy’s 80th birthday.

A recent poll showed the younger Kennedy with a wide lead over Bielat in a hypothetical matchup, largely attributable to the Kennedy family’s name recognition.

Nonetheless, Kennedy has declared that he will not rely on family recognition but on shoe-leather campaigning to win the race.

Kennedy, 31, is one of twin boys born to the former congressman and his first wife, Sheila Rauch.

Kennedy is not known for having his father’s fiery demeanor, as much as his mother’s congenial disposition, and in his early statements, he has channeled the underdog passion that was a hallmark of his late grandfather.

His strategy of formally announcing his candidacy by video, and then following it with a tour of Massachusetts communities, mimics the process used last summer by fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren as she kicked off her US Senate campaign.

Both Kennedy and Warren are served by the same political and media consultants, Doug Rubin and Kyle Sullivan.

The video format allows Kennedy, a political newcomer, to deliver a polished speech without the imposing presence of an audience. It also offers the opportunity to include testimonials by supporters, as well as family photos.

Touring various communities, meanwhile, will earn him a bounty of free media coverage.

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
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