What's in a name? Plenty -- when it comes to politics

In the third century after the United States shook off British aristocracy and its tradition of a ruling class, family political ties still count in running for national office.

Various relatives of prominent officeholders -- past and present -- are candidates or prospective candidates in at least 30 congressional races in the current election campaign.

For example, there is another Kerr running in Oklahoma, a Kohler in Wisconsin , a Dodd in Connecticut, a Gruening in Alaska, a Patman in Texas, a Saltonstall in Massachusetts, a Folsom in Alabama, an Eagleton in Missouri, and perhaps a Taft in Ohio -- to drop only a few of the best-known names.

The political kin include sons, grandsons, brothers, cousins, a half-brother, a son-in-law, a sister-in-law, and a former husband of those who previously have made successful names for themselves among voters.

They are related to current or former congresmen, governors, and sundry state and local officials.

At least eight are seeking seats in Congress once held by their political forebears.

Robert S. Kerr Jr. of Oklahoma and Rep. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, both Democrats, are running for the Senate where their fathers (Robert S. Kerr and Thomas J. Dodd) collectively served 26 years.

Clark Gruening is challenging Sen. Mike Gravel (D) of Alaska to reclaim the Senate desk occupied by his grandfather, Ernest Gruening, for 24 years before being ousted by Mr. Gravel.

House of Representatives seats are being pursued by the son of one current occupant (Williams S. Moorhead III, whose father, a Democrat, is retiring); the son of a previous occupant (Dan McKinnon, whose father, Clinton, was the predecessor of retiring Rep. Bob Wilson [R] of California); the sister-in-law of another (Melanie Kluczynski, whose brother-in-law was the late Rep. John Kluczynski (D) of Illinois; a former husband (Sam Keys, once married to former Rep. Martha Keys (D) of Kansas).

Another ex-conressman's son, Bill Patman, is campaigning in a district south of the one represented for 47 years by his famed populist father, the late Rep. Wright Patman (D) of Texas.

Five sons and one brother of former state governors are running for congress.

Terry Kohler, whose father and grandfather both served as governors of Wisconsin, is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Gaylord A. Nelson.

John N. Dempsey Jr., son of a former Democratic governor of Connecticut, is vying for the Hosue seat being vacated by Mr. Dodd. Jim Folsom Jr., son of a colorful governor in the 1940s and 1950s, eyes a House seat in Alabama.

Jerdy Gary, whose father was governor of Oklahoma, is wooing voters in Texas district. Dennis A. Smith, son of an Oregon governor (and cousin of Rep. Steven D. Symms [R] of Idaho), is contestinga seat in Oregon.

George Perpich, whose brother Rudy is the immediate past governor of Minnesota, is expected to run for the House.

Relatives of three senators (one current, two former) also are prominently mentioned as House candidates -- Kevin Eagleton, half-brother of Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D) of Missouri; William L. Saltonstall, son of the late senator and governor, Leverett Saltonstall (R) of Massachusetts; Seth Taft, cousin of former Sen. Robert A. Taft (R) of Ohio.

The brother of two lawmakers already in the House, David G. Crane, is expected to seek a seat from Indiana. His two older brothers are Rep. Philip M. Crane and Rep. Daniel B. Crane, both Illinois Republicans.

The list of scions of political families running for Congress briefly included a son of the president. Mr. Carter's son, Jack, filed papers last year to challenge Rep. Lawrence P. McDonald (D) of Georgia, but later withdrew. Perhaps he remembered Thomas Paine's 204-year-old advice.

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