The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 18, 2013

Family ties factor in key Senate races

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sen. Mark Pryor likes to tell voters that he always puts Arkansas first, borrowing the campaign slogan associated with his family for decades. In Wyoming, Liz Cheney bets that her famous father's name will be gold in her Senate race. And in Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu counts on her kin's New Orleans ties to help lift her to re-election in a tough race.

Family does matter in the runup to next fall's Senate elections: Candidates are wielding famous political pedigrees in a number of races that could determine whether Democrats maintain control in the 2014 elections.

Famous last names mean automatic name recognition and, typically, an easier time raising money. Beyond that, and 15 months before Election Day, it's unclear whether family ties will translate into votes next fall.

For several Democrats, their deep family roots in conservative-leaning states could help them make the case that they are in touch with local values and act in constituents' best interests as they seek to rebut Republican arguments that they are nothing more than rubber stamps for President Barack Obama's policies. Yet, with congressional approval ratings dipping to record lows, a political pedigree also could turn into a liability if voters decide they'd rather have some new blood in the Senate.

History is filled with famous political families with national images — the Kennedys, Rockefellers and Bushes are among them — and there are similar political dynasties in individual states across the nation.

This year, family ties figure prominently in Arkansas, where Pryor's father, David, served the state as governor and U.S. senator, and in Louisiana, where Landrieu's father, Moon, was New Orleans' mayor during the 1970s and her brother, Mitch, now leads the city. In Wyoming, former Vice President Dick Cheney's eldest daughter has galvanized the state's political scene by seeking the seat of Sen. Mike Enzi, a Republican favored by his party's establishment.

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