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Political Family Names Carry Clout


This month’s election results were good (but not perfect) for political families.

Many of the high-profile races in these elections featured prominent American political families.

Florida joined the nepotistic political party by sending Democrat Gwenn Graham to Congress, defeating incumbent Republican Steve Sutherland, representing Florida’s second Congressional District. Graham’s father, Bob Graham, is the former Governor of Florida and a former U.S. Senator. She made no statement of her family’s political heritage in the election. Of course, one of the all-time American political families is also connected to Florida through leading politician, former governor, and perhaps future presidential candidate, Jeb Bush.

Jeb’s son, George P. Bush, was elected as a land commissioner in Texas, apparently something of a unique Texas post, with a surprising amount of power and influence. It was his first crack at politics. A well-known name can get you a long way in politics, but $3 million (for a land commissioner campaign) does not hurt, either.

So why is Andrew Card, George W. Bush’s Chief Of Staff, saying Jeb would be a stronger candidate without the “Bush” brand? Andrew thinks that if Jeb ran under “John Ellis” (his given and middle names) he could sidestep all the baggage of the Bush name, and perhaps of any anti-dynasty bias (let’s note that between Jeb and Hillary, someone’s dynasty is going to be represented in 2016).

Sorry, Andrew, but there is little chance Jeb would be sitting where he is without having played the name card (sorry, Andrew). Regardless of his abilities and intelligence, Jeb may never have been able to capture the voters’ attention if he did not share the name of two Presidents, and have both father and brother in the White House. Moreover, voters’ imaginations would not be as tickled by John Ellis of Florida as they are by the idea of a Bush in the White House again. No, GHWB and GWB were not always the people’s choice. But the idea that Jeb could absorb the skills and experiences of twelve years on Pennsylvania Avenue make him an instant candidate, whenever he wants

Thumb presidents for blog

The current living presidents (left to right): George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How did other political families fare this year?

The State of Georgia may have joined in on the Republican sweep, but they did so at the expense of political legacies. Sam Nunn’s daughter lost on the Democratic ticket to the Republican “red tide” against a candidate named David Perdue. His first cousin, Sonny Perdue, is a former Georgia governor. Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, was pushed back by incumbent Governor Nathan Deal. Carter is a State Senator.

In Connecticut, Ted Kennedy Junior (running as a Democrat – sorry for the redundancy) won his first electoral bid in a statewide election in his home State of Connecticut, beating his Republican challenger named Bruce Wilson Junior from Connecticut’s 12th District.

Mary Landrieu survived a tough challenge and is on to the December runoff in the State of Louisiana, though her prospects seem a bit dim.

Political son Andrew Cuomo was reelected as Governor of the Empire State (he, like seemingly everyone else, also has ties to the Kennedy family).

The great State of Nevada sent another Laxalt, in his first political try, to the office of state Attorney General. The Republican upset Democrat Ross Miller, the grandson of former Senator and then Governor Paul Laxalt. His connections allowed him to call on the likes of Mitt Romney, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. Oh, and before you go feeling sorry for Mr. Miller, having the misfortune of running against a political legacy, don’t forget that Miller’s father was also Governor of the State of Nevada.

In Hawaii, John Waihee won an at-large seat in the important Office of Hawaiian Affairs, as a returning incumbent. The office is apparently a statewide government agency controlled by a group of trustees which control certain state lands (pursuant to a state constitutional provision). Waihee’s father, John David Waihee, served for eight years as the Hawaii Governor.

It is hard to tell whether Mitch McConnell’s rival in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is currently Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, was helped substantially by her own name. Her father, Jerry Lundergan, is a former Democratic chairman and state representative. Name recognition from a state representative cannot be bad; adding the name power and connections of state political party chairman is even better. How else would a Kentucky Secretary of State and 35-year-old Senate candidate get help on the campaign trail from the likes of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden? I suppose it didn’t hurt that she was running against the highest ranking Republican in the Senate.

This post originally appeared on Forbes

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