By Emily Goodin - 01/04/10 12:08 AM EST
Voters will see several familiar names on the ballot in 2010 as the
offspring of prominent politicians try to follow their relatives into
America has a long tradition of political families: the Adamses, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys and the Bushes, to name a few.
But no matter the result, it’s not uncommon to see political progeny try to break into the family business.
“This is a long tradition of American politics,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University. “If it’s a well known name and beloved name, that’s an advantage you don’t want to throw away.”
This cycle, the children of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) are among the political offspring seeking public office.
Here’s a rundown of those running and the status of their races:
Rory Reid: The son of the Senate majority leader is running for governor of Nevada and is the only Democratic candidate in the race. It’s not Reid’s first shot at elected office; he’s the chairman of the Clark County Commission.
But Reid’s last name could prove a burden since his father faces a difficult reelection battle. Harry Reid trails his potential GOP competitors in several matchups and the majority leader’s disapproval ratings hover around 50 percent.
When Rory Reid was in Washington earlier this month for a Democratic Governors Association meeting, he told reporters he and his father are running separate races. A campaign spokesman said there are no events scheduled with Sen. Reid.
Baker says voters can differentiate between the men.
“Voters can distinguish between members of the same family,” he said. “I don’t think voters punish children.”
Rand Paul: In contrast to Reid, Rand Paul is embracing his family ties. The son of Rep. Ron Paul will have his father campaign and fundraise for him in late January as he looks to win the GOP nomination for Kentucky’s Senate seat.
Rand Paul, a doctor, faces primary competition from Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
But Paul tapped into his father’s online fundraising network to bring in over $1 million in the third quarter of 2009, giving him the lead in the money race despite Grayson’s backing from national GOP leaders.
Robin Carnahan: Carnahan has a double political legacy. Her father was the late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D), who died in a plane crash while campaigning for the Senate. Her mother, Jean Carnahan, was named to the Senate seat after Mel Carnahan won the election posthumously.
After the late governor’s win, there was speculation Robin Carnahan would be appointed to the Senate seat. When it instead went to her mother, Robin Carnahan became Missouri’s secretary of state. Now she’s running for retiring Sen. Kit Bond’s (R-Mo.) seat.
Polls show her race against Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is a tight one but that’s to be expected. Missouri has a history of being a swing state: Jean Carnahan lost in 2002 by one percentage point to Republican Jim Talent, who then lost by 3 percentage points in 2006 to Democrat Claire McCaskill.
The Carnahan name is a popular one in Missouri. Robin Carnahan’s grandfather served in Congress and her brother, Russ Carnahan, represents the St. Louis area in the House.
She is married to businessman Juan Carlos but uses the Carnahan name professionally.
Baker points out that’s common among daughters of political families.
“If a woman candidate is married, they usually plug in or hyphenate” their maiden name, he said.
Ethan Hastert: The son of former Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) is running for his father’s old House seat.
A campaign spokesman said the two Hasterts have no plans to campaign together. Ethan Hastert has brought in other big-name GOPers, like former Speaker Newt Gingrich, to campaign with him.
But Hastert’s biggest challenge may be the state’s early primary. Illinois voters go to the polls on Feb. 2, one of the earliest primaries in the nation. Hastert faces a GOP primary with state Sen. Randy Hultgren.
Jason Carter: The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter is running for the Georgia state Senate. Jason Carter, an attorney, told the Associated Press that his grandfather encouraged him to run.
“The fact that Jimmy Carter is my grandfather, it gives me a profile and it gives me an opportunity. But in the end I still have to have relevant things to say,” he said.
Beau Biden: The son of Vice President Joe Biden has not said whether he’ll run for his father’s former Senate seat. The senior Biden resigned from the Senate when he moved to the executive branch and Ted Kaufman, a longtime family friend, was appointed to the spot.
Beau Biden, the state’s attorney general, returned in September from a stint in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard. He would face tough competition from popular Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who announced his candidacy in October.
Biden is expected to announce his intentions in January.
Aaron Blake contributed to this report