- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2012

NEWTON, Mass. — The family name may help generate a steady flow of campaign cash and assure key endorsements for Joseph P. Kennedy III’s run for a U.S. House seat.

But it may take more than just the Kennedy mystique to deliver the congressional district to the 31-year-old lawyer who was raised on politics but has never campaigned for office.

The son of former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy toured several communities in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District on Thursday after formally entering the race for the seat now held by Rep. Barney Frank, a liberal Democrat who is retiring after more than three decades in Congress.

Mr. Kennedy’s announcement had been a foregone conclusion since last month, when he formed an exploratory committee, resigned from his job as a prosecutor in Middlesex County and moved from outside the district in Cambridge to a new home in Brookline, within the district.

Mr. Kennedy’s pedigree as a scion of one of the nation’s most powerful and prominent political families is sure to give him an early edge in terms of visibility, money and organization, all of which are vital to winning campaigns. But his challenge will be to capitalize on his family’s name while establishing his own political identity.

It’s a reality that does not appear lost on the candidate.

“I’m very proud of my family’s record of public service to the commonwealth and the country,” Mr. Kennedy said after greeting commuters at a train station in Newton. “This campaign — any campaign — is going to be about the issues and about who goes out and earns it.”

Sean Bielat — who lost to Mr. Frank two years ago — and former state mental health Commissioner Elizabeth Childs are seeking the Republican nomination in the district, which stretches from the upscale Boston suburbs of Newton and Brookline to the blue-collar cities of Fall River and Taunton in southeastern Massachusetts. Three lesser-known Democrats are also running.

The Massachusetts Democratic establishment has wasted little time lining up behind Mr. Kennedy’s fledgling candidacy. In a recent TV interview, Mr. Frank said he was enthused about Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy and expected him to win. Mr. Kennedy also received endorsements from two major labor unions even before his official announcement.

Mr. Kennedy will be in Washington next week for a series of fundraising events, beginning Wednesday on what would have been the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s 80th birthday.

Several of the hosts and organizers for the events run firms that do lobbying and governmental affairs consulting.