Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nepotism Update

UPDATED: WITH CORRECTIONS. [Apologies for the poor work earlier. If you know of others, let me know -- and thanks to all for keeping me on my toes here]

It's about time for another Plain Blog favorite: the likely changes in dynastic representation in the US Senate during the current electoral cycle.

The starting point is that over time dynastic politicians -- those who had a politician in the family -- have been gradually fading, at least at the Congressional level (see this study by Tom Schaller). That's continued in the recent Senates. By my count, there were 13 16 dynastic Senators in the historic 111th Senate, not counting Hillary Clinton, who resigned near the beginning of the first session of that Congress. The current 112th is down to only 10 13. I should list them: two Udalls, and Rockefeller, Casey, Pryor, Manchin, Paul, Boozman, Kyl, and Snowe [UPDATE: and Landrieu, Begich, and Murkowski.]

And it could drop lower in the 113th. Those last two dynastic Senators, Jon Kyl and Olympia Snowe, are retiring. So far, I can't find any likely new replacements; the most likely that I found is Sarah Steelman, who has to win a tough primary first and then defeat Claire McCaskill.* If that holds, we'll be down to only eight eleven Senators who entered into the family business. I don't know, but I'd guess that's a record low. [UPDATE: Actually, that still could be a record low, for all I know. But a more accurate count, anyway].

Now, some serious caveats. The first one is that it's still early; some states haven't even had their filing deadlines yet, and it's certainly possible that a candidate I've dismissed as having little chance will emerge as a winner. The second, and perhaps more important, is that my research basically consists of looking at their wikipedia pages. That should have any prominent politicians, certainly anyone who was a U.S. Senator or a governor, but it could easily miss less successful politicians. That's especially true for current nonincumbent Senate candidates,   who may have particularly spotty wikipedia pages.

But overall...it looks quite likely that the long-term trend against family in the Senate is going to continue in the 113th Senate.



*I don't count McCaskill as dynastic, but I do count Steelman; others might differ. McCaskill's father was an appointed state insurance commissioner, and her mother served on a city council. It's possible that there's more that I don't know about, and even with that I wouldn't argue strongly against someone who classifies it the other way, but I wound up deciding against it. It's a bit tricky to tell exactly what the story is with Steelman, but I believe that her husband was a politician when she married him, and before her own political career started; that makes her dynastic in my view.

[UPDATE: Explanation? I have no idea what went wrong here, and again I apologize. I was working from a list in an old post, and...I don't know. Somehow I managed to screw it up, obviously. Again, I'll update again if I'm still missing any.]

14 comments:

  1. Mike Lee? son of a US solicitor general, 2nd cousin to the Udalls and ex Sen Gordon Smith.

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  2. Hmmm...tough call (and thanks for the info! All new to me; I believe (but didn't check) that it's also new to wikipedia since I last checked in fall 2010.

    I'm inclined to think that 2nd cousin to a pol with from a different state and different name is pretty dicey...but three of them? And certainly good family ties to the national GOP network.

    I think I'm okay with saying he's not dynastic, but I'm open to arguments either way.

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  3. >>I believe that her husband was a politician when she married him

    Isn't that sort of information easy to track down? Or am I missing something?

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  4. Connie Mack IV is considerably less likely to win than Steelman, but he may warrant a mention if only as an exemplar of the entitlement and mediocrity of the dynastic politician.

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  5. What about Lisa Murkowski? If appointed by Dad isn't dynastic, not sure what is.

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  6. Off the top of my head, Sen. Mark Begich's father was a US Representative from Alaska.

    Do you do a follow-up post listing the dynastic members of the Washington Press Corps?

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  7. How about Mary Landrieu of Louisiana? Been a while since I've been down there, however if memory serves daughter of prominent New Orleans Mayor who may also have held statewide office.

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    1. Moon was also HUD secretary under Carter.

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  9. Argghhh...That's two fairly obvious ones -- and one super-amazing obvious one. I'm really not sure how I managed to miss Murkowski. OK, update to come.

    Thanks all -- keep 'em coming!

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  10. Another maybe-borderline case: Kirsten Gillibrand's grandmother was a big (but unelected, but alleged mistress of someone elected, I think the mayor) macher in Albany politics, and KG has talked about her grandmother's influence on her.

    Okay here is an article about that from the NYTimes:

    "Polly Noonan’s association with Mr. Corning started in the 1930s. She was his secretary when he was a state senator. She would become what was described as his closest confidante. Her daughter (Senator Gillibrand’s mother) was Mayor Corning’s [mayor of Albany from 1941 up to his death in 1943] goddaughter. A half-dozen other Noonan relatives worked for the city or county.

    “Dan O’Connell [party boss] was the nominal leader,” said former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who clerked at the Court of Appeals in Albany in the late 1950s. “Corning was the de facto leader. Polly was the leader.”

    During Mr. Cuomo’s tenure as governor, she was vice chairwoman of the Democratic State Committee. For more than 30 years until her death, she was also president of the Albany Democratic Women’s Club."

    plus, as to the familial relation: "... Mayor Corning, in effect, disinherited his wife and children. He left the Noonan family his insurance business ... "

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    1. He was mayor from 1941 until his death in 1983, not 1943.

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    2. Thanks. I am a terrible typist! Yes, 1941-3 wouldn't have been nearly as impressive.

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  11. This is in the House, but Rep. Dan Lipinski's father won a primary, and then *gave* the nomination to his son. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Lipinski#Political_campaigns

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