Ted Kennedy Jr. has had his famous name bantered about for years as a potential candidate for high political office as he worked for the disabled, campaigned for others and gave a stirring eulogy for his father.
Now the son of the late U.S. senator from Massachusetts has decided to make his first bid for elected office by running for state senate in Connecticut, according to two people briefed on the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because Kennedy wants to make the announcement.
Kennedy, 52, is expected to announce Tuesday evening that he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for the 12th Senatorial District representing towns near New Haven, a lower profile open seat than the U.S. Senate where his name has been mentioned as a possible candidate.
“I think it makes sense because even if your last name is Kennedy you have to establish yourself and so doing it in a less visible setting makes a lot of sense and it still creates the opportunities to run for higher office down the road,” said Darrell West, vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Kennedy’s brother, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, also ran initially for state representative, said West, a former Brown University professor who wrote a book on Patrick Kennedy.
The health care lawyer who lives in Branford has degrees from Wesleyan University, Yale University and the University of Connecticut School of Law and serves on the board of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Patrick Kennedy, who represented Rhode Island for 16 years until he retired in 2011, said Monday he admired his brother for putting his family first for many years. Now, Ted Kennedy Jr.’s two children are in high school and college.
Patrick Kennedy said his brother’s life was transformed when he lost his leg to cancer as a boy. He said his brother became a “profile in courage” — the phrase that was the title of a book by their uncle, former President John F. Kennedy — by surviving a deadly cancer, having his leg amputated and later becoming a champion for people with disabilities.
Ted Kennedy Jr. spoke to hundreds of mourners at his father’s funeral Mass in Boston in 2009, his voice breaking as he recalled how his father helped him climb a hill to sled as he was adjusting to his artificial leg. That experience, he said, taught him that even the most profound losses are survivable.
“I think that put him on the national radar,” West said. “The skill with which he delivered the eulogy gave him greater credibility to run for office.”
There are no declared candidates yet in the race. Republicans have vowed to vigorously contest the seat.
The 12th District is represented by Guilford Democrat Edward Meyer, who is retiring, and represents Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison and North Branford.