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Kennedy not interested in heading Democratic committee

Rep. Joe Kennedy III listens during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing concerning the situation in South Sudan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. (Drew Angerer for The Boston Globe)
Rep. Joe Kennedy III listens during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing concerning the situation in South Sudan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. (Drew Angerer for The Boston Globe)for The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, the Brookline Democrat, has told top House Democrats that he is not interested in taking over the congressional Democratic campaign apparatus, following entreaties from top Democrats to gauge his interest.

House Democratic leadership had reached out to Kennedy this week to see if he would be interested in becoming chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a key role at a time when congressional Democrats have suffered deep losses and could use an infusion of new energy. The position wasn’t offered to Kennedy, but top Democrats were trying to assess whether it would be something he would consider, according to a Democratic source briefed on the discussions.

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Kennedy thanked them for thinking of him, the source said, but said he was not interested in the job.

“We’re not going to comment on private conversations.” Kennedy spokeswoman Emily Kaufman said in an email. “But as I said before, Congressman Kennedy is not pursuing the chairmanship and intends to spend his second term focused on his constituents in the 4th District and his legislative work in Washington.”

The chair of the committee oversees all of the party’s congressional election efforts, and Kennedy would be a draw because of both his youth, and his last name. Kennedy has also proven to be a major fundraising asset, even though he still hasn’t completed his first term in office.

Leading the Democratic campaign apparatus could also prove to be a thankless job, constantly asking for campaign contributions and trying to recruit candidates at a time when Republicans have a large majority.

The committee chair will be chosen by the top House Democrat shortly after the party caucuses on Nov. 18. That leaves the decision to Nancy Pelosi, who is almost certain to be reelected as minority leader.

An aide said Pelosi spoke with several Kennedy family members over the past few days. She had recommended Ethel Kennedy to receive the President Medal of Freedom, and family members called to thank her. But the aide would not say whether Representative Kennedy was among those she spoke with, or whether they talked about the DCCC position.

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The current chairman, Representative Steve Israel of New York, announced last week that he would not seek another term.

Several members of Congress – including Jared Polis, of Colorado; Donna Edwards, of Maryland; and Jim Himes, of Connecticut – are actively campaigning for the job.

Kennedy seemed caught off guard when Politico, citing anonymous “senior Democratic aides,” reported on Monday that attention was turning to Kennedy and Representative Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat.

Top Democrats later reached out to Kennedy to speak with him about the position, which is when he told them he was not interested.

As a freshman congressman, Kennedy has tried to keep a relatively low national profile – and has been wary of being seen as relying too heavily on his last name.

Former Representative Patrick Kennedy, of Rhode Island, led the committee during the 2000 election.


Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com.