Election 2014 boasts a bumper crop of political dynasties

From Michelle Nunn, David Perdue, and Jason Carter in Georgia to Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas, a bumper crop of political scions are running for office. In the case of Democrats in red states, the family name may be key to staying competitive.

David Goldman/AP/FILE
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn spoke at a voter registration rally in Atlanta in September. Nunn is one of several political scions running in Georgia in 2014. At many campaign stops her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, isn't far behind, sleeves rolled up and hands extended as if he hadn't retired in 1997.

“She was born a politician,” says Democratic activist Norma Ray Ramos, introducing Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana at a recent women’s lunch. 

At age 5, the future senator was already knocking on doors with her father, former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu, as he ran for the state Legislature. Now in a tough reelection race for the US Senate, Ms. Landrieu is trying to stay in the family business. Brother Mitch Landrieu is current mayor of New Orleans.

“Mary Landrieu already has her own brand, but her father and brother help,” says Stephen Hess, a scholar at the Brookings Institution.

This year, a bumper crop of political “children” are running for office – and in the case of Democrats clinging to Senate seats in solid red states, the family name may be key to keeping them competitive. Besides Landrieu, there are Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, whose father, David Pryor, was both governor and senator; and Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, whose father, Nick Begich, was a member of the House.

Political families are an American tradition, from the Adamses to the Kennedys to the Bushes. Not only does the family name open doors and wallets, but it suggests a childhood learning the art of political persuasion.

Sen. Mark Udall (D) of Colorado, also in a tough race, is the son of the late Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona. Mark’s cousin is Sen. Tom Udall (D) of New Mexico, son of the late Interior Secretary Stewart Udall.

Two Democratic women trying to take over Republican-held Senate seats are the daughters of politicos: state Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, whose father is former state Democratic chair and state Rep. Jerry Lundergan; and Michelle Nunn of Georgia, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn.

The Georgia Senate race features another political family: the Perdues. Republican David Perdue is a cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. Also on the GOP side, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia – daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore – is set to win a Senate seat.

For trivia buffs, here’s a question: Which senator in a competitive reelection race is the niece of former Florida Sen. and Gov. Lawton Chiles (D)? Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina.

Three governor’s races also feature famous Democratic families: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, is running for reelection. Ditto Gov. Jerry Brown of California, son of former Gov. Pat Brown. And in Georgia – winner for most dynastic races this cycle – Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is giving Gov. Nathan Deal (R) a run for his money.

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