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Political legacies fading in America

Unlike Britain we do not have royalty who have historically inherited political positions of power. However, you would not think there was much difference in our country and England when you look at the history of our political office holders. It is very much a family business in America. You need only look at the list of our presidents to realize that political offspring benefit immensely from being the sons or daughters of a famous father.

This American tradition began with John Quincy Adams following his father John Adams to the White House. The tradition continued with George W. Bush following his father George H.W. Bush as president. Many expect that Jeb Bush is waiting in the wings to pursue the GOP nomination for president in 2012.

Author Stephen Hess has written a recent book that chronicles an amazing 700 American families with two or more members who served in Congress. We have had our share here in Alabama. A walk down the halls of the Statehouse today reveals numerous young lawmakers that have fathers who preceded them in politics in Alabama. Folsom, Wallace, deGraffenried, Tyson, Hilliard and Poole are just a few of the names that have been recycled here in Alabama.

It is a bumper year for aspirants with famous fathers throughout the country. Andrew Cuomo is favored to win the New York Governor’s office previously occupied by his father Mario. Pete Domenici Jr. is running for Governor of New Mexico. He is the son of the state’s former long time U.S. Senator Peter Domenici. Rand Paul, the son of Texas congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul, is favored to win an open U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky. Rand Paul is identical to his father Ron philosophically. Both are fiscal conservatives who are basically libertarians. Rand is the star and darling of this year’s Tea Party movement. If he wins this seat he will be their claim to fame. He is already their poster boy.

A cursory look at this year’s list of potential inheritors of political dynasties is amazingly lengthy. Chris Cox, a grandson of President Nixon, is running for Congress from New York. Democrat Rory Reid, the son of Nevada Senator and majority leader, Harry Reid, is running for Governor of Nevada at the same time his father is on the ballot for a fifth term in the Senate. Paul Thurmond, the son of late Senator Strom Thurmond, is running for the House in South Carolina. Ethan Hastert is running for the seat once held by his father, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, in Illinois.

The scenario in Missouri is especially incestuous. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. Her grandfather served in Congress. Her late father, Mel, was a two-term governor of the Show Me State, her mother Jean was a senator and her brother Russ is in the House. Seeking to oppose her on the Republican side is U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt whose father was Governor of Missouri.

Our political legacies have not fared very well this year in Alabama. As the year began the potential was in the works to have three scions of former Alabama governors sitting in the State’s three highest constitutional offices. We could have potentially had Tim James, the son of former two-term Governor Fob James, as Governor, Jim Folsom Jr., the son of two-term governor Big Jim Folsom, as lieutenant governor, and George Wallace Jr., the son of four-term Governor George Wallace and one-term Governor Lurleen Wallace, returning to the State Treasurer’s office.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation. Tim James finished third in the GOP primary despite spending over $4.6 million, $3.3 million of which was his own money, and George Wallace Jr. was trounced in his run for treasurer, garnering only 35% of the vote in the primary.

Earl Hilliard Jr. left his legislative seat to run for the open 7th congressional district seat once held by his father Earl Hilliard Sr. He ran third and failed to make the Democratic primary runoff. Taze Shepherd, the grandson of our legendary U.S. Senator John Sparkman, lost badly in his attempt to land in the Tennessee Valley congressional seat once held by his grandfather.

If Jim Folsom Jr. prevails in his race for an unprecedented fourth term as lieutenant governor he will be the only political legacy to survive this year in Alabama.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.