The contest for the Democratic nomination in the 4th Congressional District highlights all that’s good, and all that’s bad, about the outsize role of the Kennedy family in Massachusetts politics. When the liberal icon Barney Frank announced his retirement earlier this year, there were dozens of ambitious Democratic politicians — in the Legislature and in local governments across the district — who might have relished a chance to advance. But when Joe Kennedy III, a 31-year-old Middlesex County prosecutor, announced he would get into the race, the field all but cleared. Half a century after John F. Kennedy was elected president, it still looks foolhardy to run against a still-formidable family brand.
Among the candidates who remain, Kennedy is the clear choice. One of his opponents is Rachel Brown, a Lyndon Larouche supporter who, according to her website, thinks President Obama is pushing the world toward a thermonuclear war. Kennedy’s other opponent is Herb Robinson, an engineer and political newcomer who’s running a part-time campaign. Like anyone who grew up in a family business, Kennedy has a far better feel for politics than the typical first-time candidate. By touting the number of campaign stops he’s made in the 4th District, he seems eager to show that he’s working hard to win the office, not just have it handed to him.