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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, January 06, 2012

The People's Seat, redux

The time was 1986. A congressional legend was retiring. An inexperienced man with a famous name decided to jump in, amid a chorus of jeers.

He won.

It's clear that 2012 is not those thrilling days of yesteryear, when Joseph P. Kennedy II moved from Marshfield to Brighton, took on a big field of Democratic hopefuls and won the right to succeed Tip O'Neill in the 8th District.

But decision by Joseph P. Kennedy III to follow in his father's footsteps, move from Cape Cod to Cambridge to the newly redrawn 4th District certainly has a familiar ring to it.

And despite the Herald's declaration that voters won't roll out the red carpet for the "dude" (did you see an actual voter quoted?), young Kennedy has set the real first marker in a field that has been slow to form since Barney Frank decided to step down.

The scorn directed at his father was far more intense. He had a somewhat checkered past at the time, both academically and with the family's driving talents. He challenged a field that included a well-known state representative in Mel King and an up and coming state senator in George Bachrach. That race also attracted a "scion" of a prominent political family, Jim Roosevelt.

Quick -- who's the best known political name living in the 4th District these days? Who exactly has announced for this seat so far, other than two Republicans mentioned by the Herald? Speculation has centered on Alan Khazei, who lost to Martha Coakley in one Senate primary and opted not to challenge Elizabeth Warren once she picked up a head of steam in the next one.

Scott Brown's mad dash to The People's Seat once held by Kennedy's grand-uncle changed the political face of Massachusetts -- at that moment in time. But it was a short race and featured a Democrat who didn't give it her best effort.

Brown's scramble back to the center suggests he may not have rewritten the rules as much as he thinks.

If Sean Bielat opts to return from Philadelphia to run for the seat he lost to Frank by 11 points in 2010, he starts with better name recognition -- as well as baggage from a race that was long on bravado and short on substance.

There are two familiar bromides to keep in mind as Kennedy lays down his marker: history does have a way of repeating. And those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Anyone remember the name of the Republican to lost to Joe Kennedy by a 72-28 percent margin?

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