Kennedy, Joseph III  091812 GN

Joseph Kennedy III speaks with Peter Fine of Attleboro while taking part in a clean energy conference last week at the offices of General Compression in Newton. (Staff photo by Martin Gavin)

One day during the campaign season of 1992, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II burst through the doors of the Larson Senior Center in Attleboro and took over the room.

With a booming voice, barrel chest and curly hair, Kennedy was the center of attention.

His famous name drew the seniors close to him.

Soon, Kennedy was dancing the Hully Gully with the women and dragging other, less willing, political candidates onto the dance floor.

The music, his voice and the reaction were all loud.

"He was wonderful," one of the seniors said at the time. "It was an honor to meet him. He's so handsome and he gave everyone kisses. All of the ladies loved it."

Hank Sennott, an Attleboro City Council member at the time who was there, said that Kennedy "has that certain something" that charismatic politicians possess.

Twenty years later, Kennedy's son, congressional candidate Joseph Kennedy III, walked into the same building under very different circumstances.

He was greeted warmly and eagerly, but there was no hoopla, no backslapping, no booming voice.

The younger Kennedy quietly walked around the room and politely introduced himself to each person in a soft voice.

At times, seniors had to move extra close to hear what he was saying.

His mother, Sheila Kennedy, visited the same senior center last week and said there is a reason her son is so quiet.

"I think he's soft spoken because he likes to listen more than he likes to talk. If more politicians listened instead of talked, the world would be a better place. But, being thoughtful and soft spoken shouldn't be taken for weakness," she said.

Sheila Kennedy said her son has proven his ability to be tough when he confronted landlords as a legal aide for tenants and when he prosecuted criminals as an assistant district attorney.

Bill Donlevy of Attleboro has seen the quiet side of Kennedy in the many public appearances the candidate has made in the local area during the campaign.

He said Kennedy's family legacy originally attracted him to the candidate, but the more he talks to Kennedy the more he believes Kennedy is sincere in his interest in hearing what people have to say.

Kennedy has held almost 200 public events since getting into the 4th Congressional District race in February, sometimes making five or six appearances per day.

Many of the events have been in the Attleboro area, and they all tend to be low-key affairs, rather the rousing political rallies his family has often been associated with.

Even his victory party in Taunton after the Sept. 6 primary election lacked the shouted slogans or the soaring rhetoric found in past family speeches, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy's "The Dream Shall Never Die" address at the 1980 Democratic Convention.

Kennedy's preference for listening was on display last week when he attended a meeting of the New England Clean Energy Council consisting of executives in the world of alternative energy.

He brought his four-page energy position paper with him, but rather than taking over the room, he said he was there to listen. He said he wanted to be a "sponge" and learn from the real experts on wind and solar power.

"There is a lot of knowledge in this room... I'd like to do as little talking as possible," he said.

The executives told him they had trouble getting energy projects funded because there is so much uncertainty as to whether a 30 percent federal tax credit would be renewed next year.

They said they would rather have the credit reduced in size and extended for a longer period to create certainty, than enjoy the larger tax break and have it expire in the middle of a project.

Another complaint was that the electrical grid is so antiquated it cannot always handle the additional power wind produces.

Kennedy's Republican opponent Sean Bielat has charged several times during the campaign that Kennedy is running on his family name and avoids positions on important issues.

Policy-heavy events like the one at the New England Clean Energy Council seemed designed to counter that accusation.

After the energy conference, Kennedy said he came away with a sense of optimism that Congress can come to a bipartisan agreement on clean energy because the best places for locating wind farms are in Western Republican-leaning states such as Texas.

He also addressed questions about his family legacy, saying he has great pride in the accomplishments of his father, grandfather and great uncles.

But, Kennedy said, he said is running his campaign as his own man.

"At the end of the day, I own it. I'm the one running," he said.

(4) comments

ChristyW

Yeah, now Joe Kennedy II is making energy deals with Hugo Chavez, and Joe Kennedy III is expressing his desire to see an end to "cheap oil". What kind of economic impact will that have on small businesses in MA and nationwide? And don't forget, Uncle Teddy loved wind power until they wanted to put it in his backyard. Please, our country's in too much trouble to keep putting politicians with no real work experience in office. Sean Bielat is a Marine and a businessman. He's the real "average Joe" and he's the sensible choice to send to Washington. Bielat gets my support.

GaryJohnson

They are correct, this is not the Kennedy of my father's day.

The Kennedy of my Father's day said things like "Ask not what your country can do for you".

The modern far left democrat seems to be asking "Ask not what I can do for society, ask what government can do for me"

Carolyn

Are you serious????....." he is running his campaign as his own man". Then why will he not publicly debate Sean Bielat ....Oh wait that wouldn't work that would unveil that there is no mystique in the Kennedy mystique. He is running on his name not his merits. Sean Bielat is running on his merits and experience as a Marine, businessman and family man who know who has had real life experience. I support Sean Bielat he is the real deal!

mitch

Can you think of a public family that gets into as much trouble as the Kennedys?
From rum running, to drug and drink issues, multiple crashes (some involving innocent victims).
This family, and/or those who are supposed to keep them in control, are a complete disaster.
Yet they are foolishly portrayed as royalty XD
Only a child would vote for such a cartoon character.
It's time for an ADULT to represent us.
BIELAT 2012!

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