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Boston and Beyond

February 17, 2013

Congressman edges Kennedy name back into politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — He glances down the hallway to his left, takes three steps to the right and, with a smile, spins back left.

It’s another wrong turn for Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., who was raised among political royalty but is just another lost freshman on Capitol Hill six weeks after taking office. His family served in Washington for most of the past six decades, but this Kennedy exits elevators on the wrong floor, struggles to locate bathrooms and has yet to make many friends.

“It’s kind of that freshman hazing ritual where nobody really will tell you where you are,” the 32-year-old Kennedy said on a recent walk to the Capitol. “It was actually yesterday where I made it over from my office through the underground tunnels and actually popped up where I thought I was going to pop up in the Capitol. First time. I was very proud of myself.”

Indeed, carrying the weight of his family name and a self-deprecating sense of humor, he is living in relative obscurity as he eases the Kennedy brand back into national politics. It was a brand without a face following the 2011 retirement of his troubled cousin, Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, whose departure created the Kennedy family’s first extended absence from elective office since John F. Kennedy became a congressman in 1947.

The boy-faced Joe Kennedy III, a redhead with little political experience, is quietly bringing the name back.

He has no entourage. He shies away from national media interviews. He introduces himself simply as “Joe.” And there is little sign of entitlement when he talks about a new career in public service.

“This is gotta be on my own,” says Kennedy, a former state prosecutor and Peace Corps volunteer. “People have got to get to know me, they gotta get to know who I am, what I stand for, what my values are. And I recognize that takes time.”

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