Steep Climb Awaits Challengers of Popular Pols’ Kin
By Bree Hocking
Roll Call Staff
November 28, 2005
When Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor (D) officially threw her hat into the ring to replace Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.) earlier this year, Florida state Sen. Les Miller (D), who had already entered the race, found himself at an immediate disadvantage — at least in the media’s eyes.
Castor is the daughter of Betty Castor, a former state education commissioner who was the 2004 Democratic Senate nominee in the Sunshine State.
“As soon as she announced, I asked this reporter, ‘Why is she the frontrunner?’ He said, ‘Because her name is Castor,’” Miller recalled during a recent telephone conversation.
Miller’s situation is hardly unusual.
Despite America’s anti-aristocratic tradition, most election cycles include their fair share of legacy candidates — those contenders who are related to the people they are trying to replace or to other prominent state political figures.
This cycle is no exception.
More than a half-dozen Congressional races — ranging from Nevada’s 2nd district where Rep. Jim Gibbons’ (R) wife, Dawn Gibbons, a former state assemblywoman, is vying to replace her husband, to New Jersey, where state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R), son of the former governor of the same name, is gunning for a Senate seat — involve so-called legacies. Moreover, legacy candidates have run in both special House elections held this year.
Such candidates usually bring with them instantaneous name ID, inherited fundraising lists, and, in some cases, extensive voter outreach programs — all of which can add up to a supreme disadvantage for those candidates who come to the race with less vaunted family connections.