Have Name, Will Run: Kin Abound in US Races
BOSTON — A RADIO ad that recently aired against Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush, former President Bush's son, shows the flip side of being a political daddy's boy.
``That young Bush boy, you know the former president's son. Every business he's ever been involved with had to be bailed out by his daddy's friends,'' a voice drawls in the ad. ``Most people think we need a governor who really understands what a job is. And they're supporting Gov. Ann Richards.''
In an election year with a slew of candidates who are the sons, daughters, sisters, or brothers of well-known politicians, Bushes, Browns, Roosevelts, Rodhams, and others are finding that famous names create a tremendous advantage in the early stages of a campaign, but don't guarantee success down the electoral homestretch.
``There are all kinds of examples of [dynasties] happening in local races and in Congress,'' says Thomas Mann, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ``[But] in statewide races, family members have been notoriously unsuccessful.''
Family names give candidates crucial name recognition and organizational, and fund-raising boosts in the early stages of a campaign, analysts say. But observers say the politically inexperienced kin of seasoned politicians often stumble in the final stages of high-stakes, high-pressure races for statewide office.
Along with George W. Bush's run for governor in Texas, former President Bush's son Jeb Bush is locked in a tight race with Democratic incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles in Florida.
Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother Hugh Rodham is a longshot Democratic candidate for United States senator in Florida. Democrat Kathleen Brown, whose father and brother were both California governors, trails slightly in the race for the same office.
Mark Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee for governor in Massachusetts, is the great-great grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. Massachusetts Republican US Senate candidate Mitt Romney, son of a former Michigan governor and presidential candidate, George Romney, is in a dead-heat with 32-year Democratic incumbent and dynasty-king Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Another Romney - George Romney's former daughter-in-law, Ronna Romney - kept her married name, but narrowly lost the Republican nomination for US senator in Michigan this year.
Senator Kennedy's son Patrick is running for a Rhode Island congressional seat. The late Robert F. Kennedy's son Joseph is running unopposed for reelection to Congress and RFK's daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is running for lieutenant governor in Maryland. All are Democrats.
Less well-known families, like the Basses in New Hampshire and Brewsters in Maryland, also have sons hoping to ride the name-recognition wave in runs for Congress.
Other sons haven't fared so well. Adam Clayton Powell IV ran unsuccessfully for the congressional seat his father once held in New York City. Mike Freeman, son of former Minnesota Gov. Orville Free-man, lost the Democratic primary for governor in Minnesota. Mark Pryor, son of US Sen. David Pryor, lost his bid to win the Democratic nomination for Arkansas attorney general.
And in two of the more controversial uses of political dynasties, Hamilton Fish Jr. and Walter Jones Jr. are running on their family names, but switching their parties. Mr. Jones lost a bid as a Democrat to win his father's North Carolina congressional seat in 1992 and is running as a Republican in a neighboring congressional district this year. Mr. Fish, a liberal Democrat, is trying to win his Republican father's New York congressional seat and become the fifth Hamilton Fish to serve in the US Congress.
Political analysts say that whether political silver-spooners join the ranks of Vice President Al Gore Jr., whose father was a US senator, or end up like former President Reagan's daughter Maureen, who lost a 1992 bid for Congress in California, depends on their timing and ability to create their own political identities.
``You usually can't win on name alone. You need something else going for you,'' says William Schneider, of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. ``Whether [a family name] helps you or hurts you depends on the context of the election year.''
In California, GOP incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson tries to link Kathleen Brown to her unpopular brother, Jerry, in a TV ad.
``[Kathleen Brown] has the same position on the death penalty as her brother Jerry Brown, who appointed dangerously lenient judges,'' the announcer says as images of Jerry and Kathleen Brown flash across the screen. ``With the same view on capital punishment as Jerry Brown ... Kathleen Brown will appoint more lenient judges. In times like these, can we afford the risk?''
So far, Bush family connections have not become a major issue in the Texas or Florida gubernatorial races. Former President Bush won both states in the 1992 presidential election.
``This is a good move for the Bushes,'' says Mr. Schneider. ``A lot of people are very unhappy with Clinton, and if you elect two Bush boys governor ... it certainly sends a message.''
But Schneider cautions that the Bush sons, who have never held public office, have a large credibility problem. And Corey Chilling, spokesman for Jeb Bush's campaign in Florida, says a dad - even if he is a former president - can only do so much.
``It cuts both ways. I don't think voters are shallow enough to just vote on a last name,'' Mr. Chilling says. ``It may get [Jeb] in the door with some voters, but he's got to close the door himself.''