WBUR

Joe Kennedy For Senate. No, Not That Joe

Joseph L. Kennedy

Joseph L. Kennedy

BOSTON — A recent Blue Mass Group poll in the special U.S. Senate race has Democrat Martha Coakley leading Republican Scott Brown 49 to 41 percent, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent. That poll also found 5 percent are undecided and another 5 percent support independent candidate Joseph L. Kennedy.

Another new poll, from Suffolk University, has Brown ahead of Coakley by four points.

With such a thin margin between the front-runners, Kennedy’s bid could prove a deciding factor. Kennedy will be listed on the ballot as an independent, but he espouses a set of libertarian principles that in recent years have gained popularity through the candidacy of Texas Congressman Ron Paul and the “Tea Party” movement.


A Very Different Sort Of Kennedy

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Kennedy is that he is on the ballot — no small feat in Massachusetts.

Of course, if you were to call some of the 10,000-plus people who signed Kennedy’s nomination papers, like I did, you might have a few conversations like the one I had with Michael Leblanc of Quincy:

“Do you know if Joe Kennedy is related to Ted Kennedy?” I asked.

“Uh, not sure,” Leblanc said. “I believe so. Is he?”

Yeah, no.

So, does Kennedy himself get tired of answering the name question?

“At the very, very beginning, I was very tired of answering the name question because people would say ‘Joe Kennedy’s not running,’ and I would say, ‘No, I’m standing right here in front of you’,” Kennedy told me, laughing. “‘You’re right, I’m not running, I’m standing.’ ”

We’re at the Green Dragon Tavern across from Union Oyster House, and it’s not the very beginning of the campaign anymore. A lot people know this isn’t 1-800-JOE-4-OIL. This Joe Kennedy has 1,400 Facebook fans, a couple of whom have driven some distance here on a Saturday night just to meet the self-described “only small government candidate” in this race.

People like Scott Humphries, who approaches Kennedy while we’re chatting at the bar.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Humphries says. “I wanted to shake your hand. I’ll vote for you on Jan. 19.”

“Oh, fantastic,” Kennedy says.

“I saw your Facebook event,” Humphries tells him. “I visit your page quite a bit.”

“Oh, fantastic,” Kennedy repeats.

Humphries is a dad from Millis, who says he never much cared about politics until two or three years ago.

“Watched a little bit of Ron Paul — he’s startin’ to kind of seep in a little bit,” Humphries says. “You know, it still took a little while for the philosophy to come together.”

“Well the press likes to drown Dr. Paul, and they wanna make fun of Dr. Paul,” Kennedy says.

The Ron Paul Effect

“I really want the American people to wake up and challenge the system,” Ron Paul said after losing the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. “You can’t get in on debates, you can’t get in on the ballots — the parties are the same.”

Joe Kennedy took that message to heart. He has proven that a so-called “liberty candidate” can get on the ballots — and in on debates.

“We have to cut spending,” Kennedy said during a recent Senate debate at UMass Boston with Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown.

“Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — you’re ready to cut them?” moderator David Gergen asked.

“Yes, I am ready to take on the entitlement programs,” Kennedy said. “I’ve said it before, I’ll do it again.”

That kind of bold positioning earned Kennedy five points in at least two recent polls. Then again, it’s five points. What’s the point?

“I think if there’s gonna be a third national party it’s gonna begin here in New England, and it’s gonna take aspects of the old Democratic Party and the old Republican Party,” says Thomas Whalen, a Boston University historian.

Let’s look at how that combination manifests itself in Kennedy. On the liberal side, he favors repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, along with federal marijuana laws. But he’s anti-entitlement, anti-progressive income tax, anti-government intervention in the economy.

Sounds more conservative, but can you imagine a mainstream Republican arguing this as the origin of Islamic terrorism?

“It’s because we occupy nations in the Middle East,” Kennedy said during the UMass Boston debate. “If you’re growing up, if you’re a little kid and you’ve got somebody from a foreign nation walking up and down your streets with a machine gun, you’re going to grow up hating that country.”

Paving The Way

Back at the Green Dragon, Kennedy booster Scott Humphries acknowledges Massachusetts, much less America, may not be ready for that kind of talk.

“It takes a while to kinda drill through that message,” Humphries says.

“It does,” Kennedy agrees. “At worst case I lose, but I set the example that, like, look, you can get yourself on the ballot, you can get a voice, and next time every single liberty candidate comes along, I’m giving them my playbook, and I’m saying: start where I left off.”

“Yeah,” Humphries says. “Yeah.”

That’s not uncommon rhetoric among long-shot independents, but Kennedy says he’ll actually hand out his donor lists, call trees and volunteer rosters. You know, the things a political party provide.

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  • Joseph C. Moore, Cpo USN Ret.

    Good for you Joe. You are the only one with a Kennedy name who I could vote for. Too bad I am a Pennsylvania resident. Also, I am sick of hearing about “Ted Kennedy’s seat”. It is not a “Ted Kennedy seat”, it belongs to the voters in Massachusetts.

  • George F. Kennan

    Go, Irish Joe!
    Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.
    Lullabies, dreams and love ever after!
    A brawler for the workin’ man, he is… ready to lift a Guiness to capitalism… that’s our Joe! A pull from St. Paddy and our lads are sure to lurch to the right!

  • Tony Federici

    Sir or Madam:

    Can you tell me,why Joe Kennedy is on the ballot as a
    Independent and not a Libertarian?

  • captain grumpy

    He is a libertarian ,just like our Pres,so I spose that means he will change his mind once elected ?????

  • Michael Langlois

    Could someone please advise Mister Kennedy that it may be time for him to bow out and endorse Scott Brown. Sure, Brown is not a Libertarian but he is a lot closer to these principles than Martha Coakley. For the sake of Massachusetts, make the endorsement.

  • James Anderson Merritt

    Bowing out and endorsing Brown would be in conflict with all the principle Kennedy espouses. Who would care about an endorsement from someone who was that gutless or two-faced? The earlier poster is right. Brown is no libertarian. If what you want is more freedom and smaller government, Brown will give it to you just like Romney and GW Bush did: that is to say, not at all. Brown will bring you more politics-as-usual.

    Kennedy is the one who is actually pledged to get government off our back and out of the “create more terrorists” business that it now pursues.

    Just as this Senate seat belongs to the voters and not Ted Kennedy or his family, neither does it belong to the two major parties that, together, have put us all in a terrible position. If you want to break free of their ruinous scam, you must vote for a third-party or independent candidate. Joe Kennedy has asked for your vote. Is Massachusetts brave enough to rebuke BOTH the Democrats and Republicans? THAT would be a shot heard round the world! We’ll see.

  • Aine

    To the People of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
    In the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the land where the American Revolution began, the land of Paul Revere and John Hancock, the people of Massachusetts were moved to rise up against the tide of British oppression by fighting against our oppressors when unfair taxes were being imposed upon the American people in the 1700’s.

    Today, over two hundred years later, higher taxes and a health care bill that people of this great land have expressed that they do not want are being forced upon us. Today, the great people of Massachusetts, the Great Commonwealth, can rise up and make a stand and change the course of American history once again as our Founding Fathers did in the 1700’s.

    If enough of us vote for Scott Brown we can send this great man to Washington D.C. to vote against a health care bill; a health care bill which will end up bankrupting this great nation of ours.

    Right now, we have the best health care system in the entire world. We need to keep the quality of our current health care system by working harder to come up with a better health care reform package. The current health care reform bill is not the best we can do. We can do better and we should not have to settle for something we do not really want. We want health care reform; not health care mediocrity. We need to send Scott Brown as our Senator from Massachusetts to Washington to tell the Washington bureaucrats to redraft the health care bill and start over again to get a fairer more cost effective, economically sound health care bill passed. Vote for Scott Brown and change the course of American history for the good. Aine Mitchell

  • Jessica Allina-Pisano

    Does anyone really believe that this Joe Kennedy has been supported to run for office for any reason other than his name–and the confusion it may create among Massachusetts voters? This looks like a textbook effort to split liberal votes in a tight race.

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