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Michelle Nunn: A Return to Dynastic Politics in Georgia?

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More than two-dozen Georgia U.S. Senators and Representatives had family members who previously served in Congress - but none since Sam Nunn in 1972

michellenunn10.jpgThe long-expected announcement that Michelle Nunn would run for Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat this week brought a sigh of relief to the Democratic Party which has been shedding promising candidates in GOP-leaning states across the country this year (e.g. Montana, South Dakota).

Once Democratic U.S. Representative John Barrow from the state's 12th Congressional District decided against a Senate bid, Nunn - CEO of the non-profit Points of Light - was considered the Party's best hope to be competitive in the Peach State's 2014 contest.

Nunn, of course, is the daughter of former Georgia Democratic U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, who served in the nation's upper legislative chamber for 24+ years from 1972 to 1997. (And who has been in and out of the national limelight ever since - including becoming a rumored vice-presidential nominee from time to time).

Nunn's decision to enter the race came just a few days after Liz Cheney, the daughter of another famous D.C. player, announced she would challenge three-term incumbent Senator Mike Enzi for the Wyoming GOP nod.

The political environment, NPR's Charles Mahtesian observed, is seemingly "boom times" for political families.

And thus if Michelle Nunn is successful in her Senate bid she would join a substantial list of Georgians with family members who previously served in one of the nation's legislative chambers.

And the first since her father.

A Smart Politics analysis finds that 28 Georgians who served in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives had a family member who had previously served in one of those chambers (or the Continental Congress) - the last of whom was Sam Nunn in 1972.

A total of 317 men and women have served in the House or Senate from Georgia since statehood 225 years ago.

Twenty-eight of these legislators, or 8.8 percent, were appointed or elected to their seat after one of their relatives had already served as a legislator on the national stage.

That list includes eight sons of former federal legislators, five cousins, four nephews, three brothers, three grandsons, two wives, one great-grandson, one grandnephew, and one great-great-nephew.

Sam Nunn was the most recent Georgian to be added to this list.

Nunn is the grandnephew of long-serving Democratic U.S. Representative Carl Vinson.

At more than 50 years in the House, Vinson owns the record for the third longest tenure in the history of the nation's lower legislative chamber, entering the House in 1914 at the age of 30 and exiting in 1965.

Prior to Nunn, the most recent Georgians to continue the family tradition of serving in Congress were:

· Democratic U.S. Representative Robert Stephens (1961-1977): great-great-nephew of Whig/Democratic U.S. Representative Alexander Stephens (1843-1859, 1873-1882).

· Democratic U.S. Representative Florence Gibbs (1940-1941): wife of (and filling the vacancy caused by the death of) Democratic U.S. Representative Willis Gibbs (1939-1940).

· Democratic U.S. Senator Rebecca Felton (serving one day in 1922): wife of Democratic U.S. Representative William Felton (1875-1881).

· Democratic U.S. Representative Charles Robert Crisp (1913-1932): son of Democratic U.S. Representative Charles Frederick Crisp (1883-1896).

· Democratic U.S. Representative William Howard (1911-1919): cousin of Democratic U.S. Senator August Bacon (1895-1914).

Overall, dynastic politics has been rare in recent decades in Georgia - at least at the federal level.

Only seven of the aforementioned 28 Senators and Representatives with Congress in their bloodlines took their seat over the last 120 years with the first 21 doing so in a 100-year span from the 1790s to the 1890s.

This list of 28 includes four Georgians elected to the House or Senate after relations served in Congress from other states:

· Democratic U.S. Senator William Harris (1919-1932) was the great-grandson of North Carolina U.S. Representative Charles Hooks (1816-1817, 1819-1825).

· Democrat U.S. Representative Thomas Cabaniss (1893-1895) was the cousin of Arkansas Democratic U.S. Representative Thomas McRae (1885-1903).

· Democratic U.S. Representative (1875-1877) and U.S. Senator (1877-1882) Benjamin Hill was the cousin of Tennessee Democratic U.S. Representative Hugh Hill (1847-1849).

· Whig U.S. Representative Thomas King (1839-1843; 1845-1850) was the brother of Pennsylvania U.S. Representative Henry King (1831-1835). (Thomas King was also the father of Louisiana Democratic U.S. Representative John Lloyd King (1879-1887)).

Michelle Nunn will emerge from the Democratic primary to face the winner of what likely will be a run-off in the GOP field.

Republicans currently have seven individuals in the race including three U.S. Representatives and a former Georgia Secretary of State.

Georgia U.S. Senators and Representatives with Family Members Who Previously Served in Congress

Member
Position / Yrs
Relation
Relative
Position / Yrs
George Walton*
SEN (1795-1796)
Brother
John Walton
Cont Cong (1778)
George Jones
SEN (1807)
Son
Noble Jones
Cont Cong (1781-1782)
William Bullock
SEN (1813)
Son
Archibald Bullock
Cont Cong (1776-1777)
Thomas Telfair
REP (1813-1817)
Son
Edward Telfair
Cont Cong (1778, 1780-1782)
Alfred Cuthbert
REP/SEN (1821-1827; 1835-1843)
Brother
John Cuthbert
REP (1819-1821)
James Meriwether
REP (1825-1827)
Son
David Meriwether
REP (1802-1807)
Jabez Jackson
REP (1835-1839)
Son
James Jackson
REP/SEN (1789-1791; 1793-1795, 1801-1806)
Mark Cooper
REP (1839-1841, 1842-1843)
Cousin
Eugenius Nisbett
REP (1839-1841)
Richard Habersham
REP (1839-1842)
Nephew
John Habersham
Cont Cong (1785)
Thomas King
REP (1839-1843; 1845-1850)
Brother
Henry King
REP (1831-1835)
James A. Meriwether
REP (1841-1843)
Nephew
James Meriwether
REP (1825-1827)
William Stiles
REP (1843-1845)
Grandson
Joseph Clay
Cont Cong (1778) **
John Lumpkin
REP (1843-1849, 1855-1857)
Nephew
Wilson Lumpkin
REP/SEN (1815-1817; 1827-1831; 1837-1841)
Howell Cobb
REP (1843-1851; 1855-1857)
Nephew
Howell Cobb
REP (1807-1812)
Alfred Colquitt
REP/SEN (1853-1855; 1883-1894)
Son
Walter Colquitt
REP/SEN (1839-1840, 1842-1843; 1843-1848)
James Jackson
REP (1857-1861)
Grandson
James Jackson
REP/SEN (1789-1791; 1793-1795, 1801-1806)
Benjamin Hill
REP/SEN (1875-1877; 1877-1882)
Cousin
Hugh Hill
REP (1847-1849)
George Black
REP (1881-1883)
Son
Edward Black
REP/SEN (1839-1841; 1842-1845)
Middleton Barrow
SEN (1882-1883)
Grandson
Wilson Lumpkin
REP/SEN (1815-1817; 1827-1831, 1837-1841)
Allen Candler
REP (1883-1891)
Cousin
Milton Candler
REP (1875-1879)
Thomas Cabaniss
REP (1893-1895)
Cousin
Thomas McRae
REP (1885-1903)
William Howard
REP (1911-1919)
Cousin
August Bacon
SEN (1895-1914)
Charles R. Crisp
REP (1913-1932)
Son
Charles F. Crisp
REP (1883-1896)
William Harris
SEN (1919-1932)
Great grandson
Charles Hooks
REP (1816-1817, 1819-1825)
Rebecca Felton
SEN (1922)
Wife
William Felton
REP (1875-1881)
Florence Gibbs
REP (1940-1941)
Wife
Willis Gibbs
REP (1939-1940)
Robert Stephens
REP (1961-1977)
Great-great-nephew
Alexander Stephens
REP (1843-1859, 1873-1882)
Sam Nunn
SEN (1972-1997)
Grandnephew
Carl Vinson
REP (1914-1965)
* George Walton also served in the Continental Congress (1776-1777, 1780-1781). ** Elected to Continental Congress but did not attend. Table compiled by Smart Politics with information provided in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

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Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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