The son of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts will announce Tuesday he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for the 12th Senatorial District, two people said on condition of anonymity because Kennedy wants to make the announcement. Kennedy said he would announce his decision that evening at a library in Branford.
Kennedy is 52-year-old health care lawyer who lives in Branford, a coastal town near New Haven, and has been mentioned as a possible political candidate for some time. He said last month he was considering running for the seat.
As a member of one of America's most prominent political families, Kennedy Jr. has been floated over the years as a possible candidate for various political offices, including U.S. Senate seats in Connecticut and Massachusetts, but he has declined to run. He has campaigned on behalf of Democratic politicians from the state, including U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and for President Barack Obama.
His brother, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, represented Rhode Island for 16 years before retiring in 2011. Patrick Kennedy would not comment when asked to confirm whether his older brother planned to run, saying it was up to him to announce. But he said they had discussed it.
"Obviously, in our family we talk a lot about politics and public life," he said. "He's pretty much gone a different route than me in not pursuing this in his life, although he had many opportunities to do it. It would be a natural extension of everything he has done."
The former congressman said he admired his brother for putting his family first for many years. Now, Ted Kennedy Jr.'s children are teenagers.
Patrick Kennedy said his brother's life was transformed when as a boy he lost his leg to cancer. Describing him with the phrase that was the title of a book by their uncle and former President John F. Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy said his brother became a "profile in courage": surviving a deadly cancer, having his leg amputated and later becoming a champion for people with disabilities.
"I've always thought my brother could be a really powerful leader, I'm not just talking elected-office sense, but leadership sense," he said. "He's just got such a tremendous personal story. I've always thought he'd be a very compelling political figure because he's integrated work with public policy with his own personal experience."
Their father took office in the Senate when he was 30 and served for nearly five decades. Patrick Kennedy added that if Kennedy Jr. does decide to run, he'll get plenty of support from the Kennedy clan.
"I haven't succeeded in getting him to take that plunge, but if he does, like everyone who knows him well, we're going to be very enthusiastic in our efforts on his behalf," he said.
The 12th District is represented by Guilford Democrat Edward Meyer, who is retiring. The seat represents Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison and North Branford.
There are no declared candidates yet in the race.
"We have several quality candidates who are interested in running and we intend to vigorously contest this open seat, regardless of the Democratic candidate," state Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said last month, adding that the district is "trending Republican" and "it's hard to imagine that the voters would choose to move farther to the left of Ed."