By Zachary Toillion
Political dynasties are nothing new. Since the early days of our republic the US has had a number of political dynasties and the two arguably largest ones have happened in the last century.
The Kennedy family has produced a president, two senators, two ambassadors and three representatives. The Bush family has produced two presidents, a senator and a governor. Political dynasties have stood the test of time and may even prove to be a deciding factor in a handful of races in the midterm elections.
Alaska’s Mark Begich is the son of former Alaskan Rep. Nick Begich. Arkansas’ Mark Pryor is the son of David Pryor who spent four years as governor and 18 years as a senator for the state. In Georgia, two Democratic statewide candidates hail from political families. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is the daughter of former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn and Jason Carter, who is currently running to be Governor of Georgia, is the grandson of former President and Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter. Running against Nunn in Georgia is David Perdue, the son of two term governor of Georgia Sunny Perdue. In Colorado, Mark Udall is running for a second term as a Senator. Udall comes from a long line of elected officials, his cousin Tom Udall is currently New Mexico’s Senior Senator. In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu’s brother and father serve as Mayor of New Orleans. In Kentucky, senate candidate Allison Lundegren Grimes is the daughter of the former chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.
Democrats are at least partially banking on political dynasties to be a factor in this year’s elections, particularly in a number of high profile senate races. Of the 12 competitive races, six of the Democratic candidates are from political families and four of those six are incumbents facing close re-election races.
Politicians banking on their family name are not always successful. Elizabeth Dole, wife of former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), lost re-election to the Senate in North Carolina in 2008, Rory Reid, the son of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lost his bid for Nevada governor in 2010, and Jack Carter, son of Jimmy Carter (D-Ga.) lost his bid for U.S. Senate in Nevada 2004.
It remains unclear whether or not political dynasties are ultimately a benefit or cost to a political figure seeking office. Former first lady Barbara Bush made waves when she claimed “If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for higher office, that’s silly.”
Several potential 2016 candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul and Jeb Bush will be watching to see if coming from a political family is a help or a hindrance in pursuit of high office.