Residents of the newly redrawn 4th Congressional district of Massachusetts, which includes Newton and Boston College, are involved in one of the more high profile congressional races in the country. Democratic candidate Joseph P. Kennedy III's and Republican candidate Sean Bielat’s ardent campaigns are both targeting voters of the nearby community.
With Democratic Congressman Barney Frank retiring, after more than 30 years of service, each candidate sees the opportunity present at this specific moment. Kennedy, running with Frank’s endorsement, began his campaign in February and has widely been considered the frontrunner for the seat.
At 32 years old, Kennedy has graduated from both Stanford University and Harvard Law School. Before receiving his law degree, Kennedy, who speaks fluent Spanish, volunteered in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. He assisted a group of local men who were being exploited by big business in the region profiting off of the island’s ecotourism.
Central to Kennedy’s campaign has been the restoration of the fundamental promise of American society, that hard work and dedication should be rewarded with equal opportunities to succeed. Kennedy maintains that he has been fighting for this fair shot his entire career, whether as a volunteer for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau or a prosecutor in Middlesex County up until January.
On the Republican ticket, Sean Bielat, who ran and lost in 2010 against Frank by ten points, is a Marine and currently in the Reserve Corps. He holds degrees from Georgetown University, the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Touting his private sector experience and experience with creating jobs, Bielat has worked for iRobot Corporation, tasked with directing the company’s PackBot program.
The candidates appear to differ on every major issue, from the government’s role in fixing the economy to a woman’s right to choose. Kennedy supports the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, while Bielat said the act is not an answer to current health care issues. On taxes, Kennedy strongly supports the Buffet Rule, calling for a more fair tax policy, which contrasts with Bielat’s stated position of cutting taxes further.
The campaign has turned away from the grave issues of the economy to focus on Kennedy’s name. The Republican challenger has recently released numerous ads proclaiming Kennedy’s candidacy as based on his name only. Trying to use the Kennedy name recognition against him, Bielat has released an ad that said, “Help us elect a Congressman that Jack Kennedy would be proud of,” effectively portraying the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Kennedy’s great uncle, as a tax cutting conservative that would have endorsed Bielat over Kennedy. A move that an Esquire magazine writer called, “What may be the funniest political commercial that I’ve ever seen.”
Regardless of the national attention, which has been drawn to this race largely because of the candidacy of Kennedy, constituents in the 4th district have an important choice to make on election day. This choice will determine their collective voice in congress for years to come. So Bay Staters, and more specifically, Newtonians, which candidate will it be?