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All Eyes on a Kennedy in Race to Replace Frank

Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Joseph Kennedy III (left), son of former Rep. Joe Kennedy (right), is considering a run for the 4th district House seat held by retiring Rep. Barney Frank.

Ask not whether you have the desire, the resources, and the stamina to be a Congressional candidate in Massachusetts; ask whether a Kennedy is in the race.

Democratic Rep. Barney Frank’s announcement that he would not run for re-election in 2012 opened the door for a bevy of ambitious candidates eyeing the state’s 4th district, a safe Democratic seat. But one contender has the potential to change the fundamental dynamics of the race. Until Joseph Kennedy III, who has said he is considering a run, makes a final decision, the field will remain in a deep state of flux.

If Kennedy, the 31-year-old attorney son of former Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, jumps in the race, other candidates may decide to wait for another shot at Congress.

“He has the ability to do what Elizabeth Warren did, which is to basically clear the field,” Massachusetts Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said, referring to the presumptive Democratic nominee for Senate.

Jesse Mermell, a selectwoman in the city of Brookline who is seriously looking at a Congressional run, said there were myriad considerations. Speaking to Roll Call as she drove around the district, Mermell said she had been on the phone since Frank announced his retirement, feeling out the potential for fundraising, ground organization and the political climate.

As for the specter of Kennedy jumping in, she said, “Anyone who tells you it’s not part of their decision-making process is lying.”

Fall River Mayor William Flanagan, who has left the door open to a bid for the seat, said if Kennedy entered the race it would change the dynamic of the field. “He does bring in name recognition, and he would have the ability to raise finances given his connection to his family and his family’s connection to the Democratic Party,” he said.

But Flanagan, Mermell and other potential entrants in the race all told Roll Call their final decision would be based on factors besides Kennedy.

“We are a commonwealth with great political bench strength,” Mermell said. “So whatever this field looks like, it’ll be strong.”

Other possible Democratic contenders include state Sen. Cindy Creem, former Brookline Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Deborah Goldberg, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who recently dropped his bid for Senate, Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter and state Sen. Marc Pacheco.

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