Joe Kennedy III

Joe Kennedy III
Joe Kennedy III, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded byBarney Frank
Personal details
Joseph Patrick Kennedy III

(1980-10-04) October 4, 1980 (age 39)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Lauren Birchfield (m. 2012)
ParentsJoseph P. Kennedy II (father)
Sheila Brewster Rauch (mother)
RelativesSee Kennedy family
EducationStanford University (BS)
Harvard University (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Joseph Patrick Kennedy III (born October 4, 1980) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts's 4th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, he represents a congressional district that extends from the western suburbs of Boston to the state's South Coast. A son of former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, he worked as a Peace Corps volunteer and as an assistant district attorney in the Cape and Islands and Middlesex County, Massachusetts offices before his election to Congress.

Kennedy is a grandson of U.S. Senator and former United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, a grand-nephew of 35th President of the United States John F. Kennedy and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, and a great-grandson of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. His great-grandmother Rose Kennedy was the daughter of John F. Fitzgerald, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Mayor of Boston.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Kennedy was raised in the Boston area with his twin brother, Matthew Rauch Kennedy. After graduating from Stanford University he spent two years in the Dominican Republic as a member of the Peace Corps, and earned his Juris Doctor at Harvard Law School in 2009. He resigned as a prosecutor in early 2012 to run for the seat held by retiring Congressman Barney Frank. He was sworn into office in January 2013 and sits on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. On September 21, 2019, he announced his intent to challenge incumbent Ed Markey for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Kennedy was born October 4, 1980[2] in Brighton, a neighborhood of Boston, to Sheila Brewster (Rauch) and Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy II. He was born eight minutes after his fraternal twin brother, Matthew. Matt and he are the eldest grandsons of Senator Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy and Ethel Skakel.[3][4] Kennedy was raised in Brighton and in the coastal town of Marshfield, Massachusetts, also spending summers on Cape Cod.[5] From birth, Kennedy was engulfed in politics; in 1980, his parents were working on the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, the boys' great-uncle. Kennedy's father was elected to Congress in 1986. The pressures of political life strained Joseph and Sheila's marriage, and they divorced in 1991. The twins spent the following years moving between Brighton and Cambridge.[4]

Kennedy (left) in the Dominican Republic as part of the Peace Corps

After graduating from the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Kennedy along with his brother enrolled in Stanford University, where he majored in management science and engineering. Kennedy's reputation as a teetotaler earned him the college nickname "Milkman", as his teammates on the club lacrosse team would jokingly order him glasses of milk at bars.[4][6] While at Stanford, Kennedy roomed with future NBA player Jason Collins.[7] He was also a member of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity.

After graduating in 2003, Kennedy joined the Peace Corps; a fluent speaker of Spanish, he worked in the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic from 2004 to 2006, helping local tour guides in the 27 Charcos reserve in the Río Damajagua Park. He reorganized the group with some outside backing, directing the guides to rebuild parts of the park and develop skills to make the operation more attractive to tourists.[4][6] "We basically created a union," said Kennedy, who reported that the group's efforts won higher wages for employees while improving revenue for the tour companies.[8] According to a press release, his other activities in the Peace Corps included "stints as an Anti-Poverty Consultant for the Office of the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and a Research Analyst for the United Nations Development Program."[9]

Entry into law and politics[edit]

Kennedy speaking at the 50th Anniversary of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (2011)

In April 2006, Kennedy returned to Massachusetts, where he and his brother co-chaired Ted Kennedy's re-election campaign. That same month, Kennedy enrolled in Harvard Law School.[4] While in school, Kennedy worked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, providing legal aid to low-income tenants with foreclosure cases in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. He also worked as a technical editor for the Harvard Human Rights Journal, on a staff with his classmate and future wife, Lauren Anne Birchfield.[4] In 2007, he and Birchfield co-founded Picture This: Justice and Power, an after-school program for youths in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood.[10][11] He began an internship at the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office in 2008.[9]

After receiving his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 2009, Kennedy was hired at the Cape and Islands Office as an assistant district attorney (DA). He considered running for the Cape-based U.S. House seat held by retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt in early 2010, but decided against it.[12] In September 2011, he joined the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, also as an assistant DA.[13] He resigned several months later, in preparation for the announcement that he would seek political office.[14]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



Kennedy during the 112th Congress
Kennedy campaigning with Elizabeth Warren and his predecessor Barney Frank in 2012 (left to right)

In January 2012, Kennedy announced he would form an exploratory committee to run in the newly redrawn 4th congressional district of Massachusetts. Congressman Barney Frank, who had previously represented the district, had announced his retirement, leaving an open field for the seat.[14][15] Kennedy explained, "I will then begin to reach out to the people of the Fourth District in order to hear directly from them about the challenges they are facing and their ideas on how we can restore fairness to our system. I will make a final decision about entering the race in the weeks thereafter."[16][17]

Kennedy officially entered the election in February 2012.[18] In an announcement video, Kennedy declared, "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."[19] In the same video, Kennedy vowed to fight for a "fair job plan", a "better educational system", a "fair tax code" and a "fair housing policy".[19]

While several Democratic candidates had prepared to enter the race, the field nearly cleared once Kennedy announced his candidacy. His family roots made him the overwhelming favorite among Massachusetts Democrats.[20][21] In the September 6 primary, he faced Rachel Brown, a Lyndon LaRouche acolyte; and Herb Robinson, an engineer and musician, winning the primary with 90 percent of the vote.[22][23]

In the general election campaign he faced Republican nominee Sean Bielat, a technology executive and member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Bielat had run an unsuccessful campaign against Barney Frank in the 2010 election for the 4th district seat.[24] In a series of debates, Bielat challenged Kennedy's qualifications for Congress, saying that the Democrat's campaign was coasting on name recognition rather than experience, and that he would be a party-line vote. Kennedy tried to tie Bielat to the budget platform of U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, although Bielat responded that he only supported parts of the plan.[25][26] Kennedy raised over $4 million in support of his campaign, far exceeding Bielat's draw of around $900,000.[24] Kennedy won the November 6 election with 61 percent of the vote to Bielat's 36 percent.[27]


In the 2014 election Joseph P. Kennedy III ran unopposed in the primary election and in the general election. On November 4, 2014, Kennedy was re-elected, winning a second term with 184,158 votes or 97.91%.[28]


In 2016, after running unopposed in the Democratic primary, Kennedy was re-elected to a third term, defeating Republican David Rosa by a margin of more than 40 percentage points.[29] On November 6, 2016, Kennedy was re-elected, winning a 3rd term with 265,823 votes or 70.10%


Kennedy was mentioned as a potential candidate for the 2018 Massachusetts gubernatorial election[30] but declined, stating that he intended to run for re-election to the House of Representatives and did not have plans to run for any other office.[31] He was re-elected unopposed.

Committee assignments
115th Congress (2017–19)[32]


Joe Kennedy III speaks during a ceremony celebrating the life of his grandfather, Robert F. Kennedy, in 2018.

Kennedy was sworn into the 113th U.S. Congress on January 3, 2013, and was assigned to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He praised the technology committee assignment as an opportunity to secure federal funding, including National Science Foundation and Small Business Innovation Research grants, for life sciences companies in his district. As a freshman in his party, he was unable to secure a seat on the Education Committee which he had sought.[33]

During a February science committee hearing, he questioned Texas Instruments president Richard Templeton regarding the company's efforts to compensate cancer-stricken former employees of its Attleboro, Massachusetts, nuclear facility.[34][35] A prolific fundraiser, he launched his political action committee, the 4MA PAC, in April.[36][37] As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he traveled in May with four other legislators to Afghanistan, where they met with President Hamid Karzai and members of the military.[38] That month he was named chairman of Governor Deval Patrick's STEM Advisory Council.[39]

On July 24, 2013, Kennedy was one of seven members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus[40] (CPC) who voted against the Amash-Conyers amendment to limit Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which tried to restrict NSA surveillance programs. In contrast, a majority of both CPC members and of Democratic members of Congress voted for the amendment, while Kennedy stood out as a supporter of the party leadership. His vote has been criticized as a sign for a lack of commitment to civil liberties.[41]

On January 26, 2018, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he would deliver the Democratic response to President Donald Trump's 2018 State of the Union address.[42][43] The selection of Kennedy to give the Democratic response came after criticism that the Democratic Party relied too heavily on its oldest leaders since the 2016 presidential election. In choosing Kennedy, the party was seen as trying to bridge the gap with a new face attached to one of the most famous names in American politics.[44] He addressed the television cameras and a live studio audience in the automotive body shop of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School at Fall River, Massachusetts.[45] He is the second member of his family to give the Democratic response, after his great uncle Ted Kennedy replied to the 1982 State of the Union Address.[46] During his response to the 2018 State of the Union, he praised Black Lives Matter and spoke in Spanish with regards to children who were brought into the United States illegally when they were minors.[47]

Kennedy is a member of the U.S.-Japan Caucus.[48]

Response to the 2018 State of the Union[edit]

On January 30, 2018, Kennedy delivered the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union address. He gave the nationally televised speech while in the auto shop of the Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River, Massachusetts. The location emphasized the role that immigrants have in American society. He spent the opening minutes boasting about the economy and industrial history of Fall River, a city in his district. His audience was made up of, among other people, students from the Diman Regional Technical School.

In the speech, he took numerous swings at President Trump. He criticized President Trump's Department of Justice for “rolling back civil rights by the day” and attacked the administration for “targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”[49] He accused President Trump of turning American life “into a zero-sum game.”[50] He made clear the Democrats' intentions to aid the middle and lower classes and rebuked President Trump's political agenda. Kennedy closed out the speech by characterizing the state of the union as “hopeful, resilient, enduring.”[51]

2020 Senate campaign[edit]

Logo for Kennedy's 2020 Senate Campaign

On August 26, 2019, Kennedy announced he was considering a primary challenge against incumbent Senator Ed Markey.[52] On September 21, he formally announced his primary challenge.[53]

Personal life[edit]

Kennedy married health policy lawyer[54] Lauren Anne Birchfield (born September 21, 1984)[55] in Corona del Mar, California, on December 1, 2012.[56] The couple met in a Harvard Law School class taught by future senator Elizabeth Warren.[57] On December 29, 2015, Birchfield gave birth to their daughter, Eleanor "Ellie" Kennedy.[58] On December 20, 2017, Kennedy announced the birth of their second child, son James Matthew Kennedy.[59] The family lives in Newton, Massachusetts.[60]

An heir to Joe Kennedy's and George Skakel's fortunes, he holds substantial investments in trusts and is estimated to have assets totaling between $20 million and $60 million.[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Congressman Joe Kennedy III announces U.S. Senate run". Boston25 News. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  2. ^ "Kennedy, Joseph P. III". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  3. ^ Edith Zimmerman (September 12, 2012). "Keeping Up With the Kennedys". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Jacobs, Sally (March 17, 2012). "For the Kennedy clan, he is Generation Next". The Boston Globe.
  5. ^ Vosk, Stephanie (February 28, 2010). "Not your average Joe (Kennedy)". Cape Cod Times. Archived from the original on May 12, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Massachusetts, 4th House District". National Journal. November 6, 2012.
  7. ^ "Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now". Sports Illustrated. April 29, 2013.
  8. ^ Pollock, Alan (May 7, 2009). "Joseph P. Kennedy III Urges Young People To Act Locally, And Globally". The Cape Cod Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Kennedy Joins Middlesex District Attorney's Office". Office of the Middlesex District Attorney. August 24, 2011. Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
  10. ^ "Joseph Kennedy III joins Middlesex DA's Office". The MetroWest Daily News. August 24, 2011. Archived from the original on April 12, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
  11. ^ Newburger, Emily (2012). "The Next Generation". Alumni Pursuits. Harvard Law School.
  12. ^ Vosk, Stephanie (March 1, 2010). "Joseph Kennedy III says he won't seek seat". Cape Cod Times. Archived from the original on January 15, 2012.
  13. ^ Jessica Venezia Pastore & Stephanie Chelf Guyotte (August 24, 2011). "Middlesex District Attorney". Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Walker, Adrian (January 5, 2012). "Joseph P. Kennedy III, Family Scion, Explores Run for Barney Frank's House Seat". Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  15. ^ Clift, Eleanor (February 17, 2012). "Joe Kennedy III Takes the Torch from Retiring Barney Frank". The Daily Beast. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  16. ^ "Joe Kennedy III Exploring Campaign Run". The Boston Channel. January 5, 2012. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  17. ^ Miga, Andrew (January 5, 2012). "Joseph Kennedy III Takes Steps Toward A Run For Congress". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  18. ^ LeBlanc, Steve (February 15, 2012). "Joseph Kennedy III Announcing Mass. Congress Bid". Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  19. ^ a b joekennedy2012 (February 15, 2012). "I'm Running". YouTube. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  20. ^ Miller, Joshua (January 24, 2012). "4th District Field Clears for Joseph Kennedy III in Massachusetts". Roll Call. CQ.
  21. ^ "2012 Primary Endorsement: 4th Congressional District: Joe Kennedy III for Democrats". The Boston Globe. September 2, 2012.
  22. ^ Levenson, Michael (September 7, 2012). "Bielat, Kennedy to vie for open House seat". The Boston Globe.
  23. ^ "U.S. House - 4th District - 2012 Primary Results - Massachusetts". The Boston Globe. September 6, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Arsenault, Mark (November 9, 2012). "Kennedy takes Fourth District congressional seat in decisive win over Bielat". The Boston Globe.
  25. ^ Stout, Matt (October 11, 2012). "Joe Kennedy III, Sean Bielat trade jabs". The Boston Herald.
  26. ^ Bever, Fred (October 16, 2012). "Bielat, Kennedy Meet In Final 4th District Debate". WBUR News.
  27. ^ "Races and Results: U.S. House (Massachusetts)". CNN Election Center. 2012.
  28. ^ "House election results". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  29. ^ "Massachusetts 4th District Results". New York Times. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  30. ^ Salsberg, Bob (November 28, 2016). "Pivoting toward 2018, Massachusetts Dems eye Charlie Baker challenge". Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  31. ^ Metzger, Andy. "Kennedy says he will seek re-election in 2018". The Herald News. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  32. ^ "Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass)". Roll Call. CQ.
  33. ^ Jan, Tracy (January 5, 2013). "Kennedy named to two House committees". The Boston Globe.
  34. ^ Nichols, Christopher (February 6, 2013). "Kennedy grills Texas Instruments president". Taunton Gazette.
  35. ^ Foster, Rick (February 6, 2013). "Kennedy questions TI president about cancer cases". The Sun Chronicle.
  36. ^ Tracy, Jan (April 17, 2013). "Tierney tops state delegation in first quarter fundraising". The Boston Globe.
  37. ^ Blake, Aaron (April 12, 2013). "Rep. Joe Kennedy III launches political action committee". Post Politics (The Washington Post).
  38. ^ Bender, Bryan (May 28, 2013). "Kennedy impressed by US efforts to prepare Afghans". The Boston Globe.
  39. ^ Massachusetts Governor's Office (May 29, 2013). "Lieutenant Governor Murray announces Congressman Kennedy to lead the governor's STEM Advisory Council".
  40. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  41. ^ In These Times (July 26, 2013). "Why Did 83 Democrats Vote to Continue NSA Surveillance?".
  42. ^ "Rep. Joe Kennedy III to deliver Democratic response to State of the Union". Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  43. ^ "Can Joe Kennedy Beat the State of the Union Curse?". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  44. ^ Malone, Scott (January 25, 2018). "In step to national stage, a young Kennedy to rebut Trump address". Boston. Reuters. Archived from the original on January 26, 2018. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  45. ^ "Rep. Kennedy highlighted Fall River's resilience and work ethic in rebuttal to President Trump". Herald News, Massachusetts. February 1, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  46. ^ "Democrat Joe Kennedy to respond to Trump's union speech". BBC News. January 26, 2018. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  47. ^ "Joseph P. Kennedy III Gives Democratic Response to State of the Union".
  48. ^ "Members". U.S. - Japan Caucus. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
  49. ^ "Full Transcript and Video: Joe Kennedy Delivers Democratic Response to the State of the Union". Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  50. ^ "Full Transcript and Video: Joe Kennedy Delivers Democratic Response to the State of the Union". Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  51. ^ "Full Transcript and Video: Joe Kennedy Delivers Democratic Response to the State of the Union". Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  52. ^ Dwinell, Joe (August 26, 2019). "Joe Kennedy III confirms he's eyeing run for U.S. Senate". Boston Herald. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  53. ^ LeBLANC, STEVE (September 21, 2019). "Rep. Joe Kennedy formally announces US Senate campaign". AP NEWS. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  54. ^ "Lauren Birchfield Kennedy". Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  55. ^ "Joseph Patrick Kennedy + Lauren Anne Birchfield - Our Family Tree". December 29, 2015. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  56. ^ Scott Stump (December 3, 2012). "Congressman-elect Joe Kennedy III is married". MSNBC.
  57. ^ Ted Nesi (January 3, 2012). "Joe Kennedy III met his wife in Warren's Harvard Law class". WPRI-TV. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  58. ^ Katie McLeod (December 29, 2015). "Joe Kennedy III announces birth of daughter on Twitter". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  59. ^ "Meet James Matthew Kennedy. Born early this morning and doing great. First gift he received was (appropriately) a Patriots jersey from Grandpa Joe. Thanks to all for the kind words. We are exhausted, over the moon and deeply grateful!". December 20, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  60. ^
  61. ^ Dwilson, Stephanie Dube (January 30, 2018). "Joe Kennedy's Net Worth: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved August 13, 2018.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Barney Frank
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 4th congressional district

Party political offices
Preceded by
Steve Beshear
Response to the State of the Union address
Succeeded by
Stacey Abrams
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
David Joyce
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Dan Kildee