Joseph P. Kennedy III, family scion, explores run for Barney Frank’s House seat

Falmouth, MA., 02/08/11, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, cq, is an assistant district attorney on Cape Cod, and he is the latest young Kennedy to be buzzed about as a possible candidate. Photographed in Falmouth District Court. The young Kennedy, only 30, traveled to the state house last month to deliver a speech and got a standing ovation. Section: Metro, Reporter: Jenna Russell. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Joseph P. Kennedy III in Falmouth District Court in his previous job, as assistant district attorney on Cape Cod.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Joseph P. Kennedy III is taking the final steps to launch a run for Congress this year, hoping to succeed US Rep. Barney Frank, who will retire rather than run in his reconfigured district.

Kennedy is forming an exploratory committee for the seat. The 31-year-old today also announced his resignation as a prosecutor in the office of Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., where he has worked since September. He will leave state employ Jan. 20.

“I am announcing today my intention to explore a candidacy for the United States Congress in the Fourth District of Massachusetts,’’ he said in a statement issued this morning. He said he will decide over the next several weeks whether to formally run for office, after speaking with voters.

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Raised in Marshfield, Brighton, and Cambridge, Kennedy is a former Peace Corps volunteer and a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School. Before joining the Middlesex prosecutor’s office, he worked for 2 1/2 years as prosecutor on Cape Cod.

The entrance of the son of former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II and the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy would mark the first return of the Kennedy family into Massachusetts electoral politics since the death of patriarch, US Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 2009.

“My decision to look seriously at elected office is grounded in a deep commitment to public service and my experience – both my own and that of my family—in finding just, practical, and bipartisan solutions to difficult challenges,’’ Kennedy said in the statement.

He added, “it is a commitment instilled in me at a young age and one that inspired me to join the Peace Corps after college and to become a prosecutor after law school.’’

The Globe reported in late November that the scion of the famed Kennedy clan was considering running.

In his statement, Kennedy criticized both the tone of political discourse in Washington saying, “fairness, the foundation of America’s social compact, seems to be in short supply these days.’’

“We wage war, pass skewed tax breaks, and expand benefits by spendthrift borrowing, saddling the next generation of Americans with unsustainable debt,’’ Kennedy said. “Then when it comes time to restoring fiscal sanity to our budget, we see the middle class and the poor take the hit while the wealthy get more tax breaks. ‘’

In what read like a candidate’s stump speech, Kennedy said “the lack of common sense and fairness in Washington is a byproduct of the partisan gridlock that has turned obstruction into victory. Americans are better than that. Each and every day, we work with people of different backgrounds and political views to achieve a common purpose. Washington can and should do the same.’’

In a statement, Leone wished Kennedy well.

“I respect and admire Joe’s desire to serve the citizens of the Fourth Congressional District and I am confident that, if the people choose him, he will serve them with the same commitment and distinction that he has served the citizens of Middlesex County,” Leone said.

In early 2011, Kennedy raised a stir in political circles when he delivered a speech at the State House as part of the commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s “City Upon a Hill” address in 1961.

His speech decried the vituperative political rhetoric that he said was tearing the nation’s fabric.

“Pretty amazing,” Senate President Therese Murray said after the speech. “I think we have a new Kennedy. He hit that one right out of the ballpark. ... Another historic speech from another Kennedy.”

(John R. Ellement and Martin Finucane of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.)