The biggest political dynasty in all 50 states

October 5, 2012

Last week, we asked Fix readers to help us pick out the biggest state-based political dynasty in all 50 states.


And The Fix readers, as they always do, came through.

Below, we list what we see as the top political dynasty in each state.

Did we get your state right? Have a beef? Or did you just want to tell us how great our list is? The comments section awaits.

To the line!

Alabama – The Folsoms and the Wallaces

Former governor Jim Folsom Jr. is the son of former governor Jim Folsom. The elder Folsom was an uncle (by marriage) to former governor George Wallace and his wife, Lurleen Wallace, who also served two years as governor.

Alaska -- The Murkowskis


Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Lisa Murkowski (R) isn’t the first in her family to hold the title of senator. Her father Frank Murkowski’s tenure in the upper chamber spanned three decades. From the Senate, the elder Murkowski went to the governor’s mansion, where he served from 2002-2006 (and lost a primary in 2006 to none other than Sarah Palin).

Arizona – The Udalls

The Udalls have their tentacles all over the West, with members of the family serving as senators from New Mexico (Democrat Tom Udall), Colorado (Democrat Mark Udall) to Oregon (Republican former senator Gordon Smith) and now Utah (freshman Republican Sen. Mike Lee). But it all started in Arizona, where Udalls have provided two mayors of Phoenix, four state legislators, two state Supreme Court justices and a U.S. secretary of the interior. For more, see this great family tree.

Arkansas – The Pryors

Sen. Mark Pryor (D) followed in his father’s footsteps when he was elected to the Senate in 2002. David Pryor served three terms in the upper chamber before retiring in 1997. Before that, he was a governor and a congressman. Mark Pryor made the jump to the Senate after serving as state attorney general.

California – The Browns

Here’s a family that knows a thing or two about serving in statewide office in the biggest state. Current Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is serving his second stint in the state’s top job (he was governor from 1975-1983, and thrice ran for president). Jerry Brown’s father, Edmund “Pat" Brown, also served as governor, and his sister Kathleen Brown was a state treasurer in the early 1990s.

Colorado – The Adamses

Alva Adams was governor in the late 1800s, and his brother William held the same title during the Great Depression. Around the same time, Alva’s son, Alva B. Adams, was a senator.

Connecticut – The Ingersolls

The Ingerolls also have ties to Pennsylvania, but Charles R. Ingersoll served as governor of Connecticut, while two other Ingersolls served in Congress from Connecticut (Ralph and Colin) and held other high-profile posts, including as envoys to Russia.

Delaware – The Rodneys

Two governors (Daniel and Caleb), a senator (Caesar Augustus), two congressman (Thomas and George), and one man who was both “president” of Delaware and a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Caesar) all descended from William Rodney and shared his last name.

Florida – The Macks

There was a reason that Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) immediately excelled in the polls when he launched his Senate campaign: name recognition. The Mack name is well-known and well-respected in the Sunshine State. Mack’s father, Connie Mack III (officially Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy III ) served as a senator and congressman. The younger Mack’s wife is Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), and his great-grandfather is baseball Hall-of-Famer Connie Mack.

Georgia – The Russells

Richard Russell Jr. and his nephew by marriage, Ernest Vandiver, both served as governor. Richard’s father of the same name was chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and Richard Jr.’s brother Robert and son, Robert Jr., both served as appeals court judges.

Hawaii – The Farringtons

Territorial Hawaii governor Wallace Farrington was the father of Joe Farrington, who along with his wife, Betty, served as congressional delegates from the state in the 1940s and '50s. Joe Farrington is credited with bringing Hawaii its statehood, earning the nickname "Statehood Joe."

Idaho – The Churches and Clarks


Former senator Frank Church, at left

Longtime Democratic senator Frank Church, who served in the Senate from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, headed up the eponymous Church Committee, which investigated abuses in the U.S. intelligence agencies. He also ran for president in 1976. His father-in-law, Chase Addison Clark, and Clark's brother Barzilla Clark, both served as governor.

Illinois – The Stevensons

The Stevenson family’s political history has roots in the 19th century. Adlai Stevenson served as vice president in the Grover Cleveland administration and was also postmaster general and a congressman. Adlai Stevenson II served as governor and ambassador to the United Nations, wining the Democratic nomination for president in 1952 and 1956, and Adlai Stevenson III was a senator.

Indiana – The Hendrickses

While Stevenson was vice president in Cleveland's second term, Thomas Hendricks served in that role in his first term, and also as governor and senator. His uncle William Hendricks held the latter two titles as well, and the family includes several state legislators.

Iowa – The Culvers

When Democrat Chet Culver ran for governor in 2006, he had the benefit of a well-known last name in Iowa, as his father John Culver had served as a senator. The younger Culver, who spent eight years as secretary of state before ascending to the governor’s mansion, lost to Republican Terry Branstad in 2010 amid a bleak economic outlook in the state.

Kansas – The Dockings

George Docking and son Robert Docking both served as governor, just six years apart. Robert’s son Thomas was also lieutenant governor in the 1980s but failed to win the top office in 1988. Thomas's wife, Jill, was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Senate in 1996.

Kentucky – The Chandlers

Rep. Ben Chandler (D), who faces a competitive reelection bid this cycle, is not the first in his family to have been bitten by the political bug. His grandfather A.B. "Happy" Chandler – great political name – was a governor, senator and even commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Louisiana – The Longs

Where to begin? Everyone knows Huey Long, who served as governor and senator before his assassination in 1935. His brother Earl was also governor and his wife, Rose, was appointed senator after Huey’s death. Huey and Rose’s son, Russell, served four decades as senator until 1987, while three other relatives served as members of Congress in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. That's 60 years of political domination.

Maine – The Chandlers and the Hales

John Chandler was a senator in the 1820s, and his brother Thomas joined Congress when he left. Later, relatives Eugene Hale and Frederick Hale both served decades as senators, while Rodney Chandler served as congressman from Washington state.

Maryland -- The D'Alesandros and the Pelosis


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Most people would associate House Minority Leader and former speaker Nancy Pelosi with the state of California, where she represents a liberal San Francisco-based district. But she was born in Baltimore, where her father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., served as mayor. So did her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III. The elder D'Alesandro also served in Congress. Pelosi’s daughter Christine works in politics as a Democratic strategist.

Massachusetts – The Kennedys

Really, there is no family in politics with such widespread name recognition. From John F. Kennedy to Robert F. Kennedy to Ted Kennedy, the family has been a fixture in the Democratic Party for decades. When Patrick Kennedy stepped down from his congressional seat in Rhode Island in 2011, it was the first time in 63 years that Washington was without a Kennedy serving in elected office. Joe Kennedy III, who is a virtual lock in Massachusetts’ 4th district next month, should make sure that absence is short-lived.

Michigan – The Dingells

John Dingell Sr. and John Dingell Jr. have held a seat in Congress since 1933, with the latter Dingell now in his 57th year in Congress – the third-longest congressional tenure in history. His son, Christopher, is a former state senator and circuit court judge, and his wife, Debbie, is a Democratic National Committeewoman. Either could run to succeed him and keep the seat Dingell.

Minnesota – The Humphreys

Hubert Humphrey was mayor of Minneapolis, senator, vice president and the Democratic presidential nominee in 1968. His wife, Muriel, was appointed senator upon his death in 1978, his son Skip is a former state attorney general who ran for governor, and his grandson Buck has been rumored as a potential statewide candidate.

Mississippi – The Johnsons

Paul Johnson was governor in the 1940s, his son Paul Johnson Jr. was governor in the 1960s, and grandson Pete Johnson was state auditor in the late 1980s and early '90s.

Missouri – The Carnahans

The Carnahan family’s political roots in Missouri can be traced back to A.S.J. Carnahan, who served as a congressman in the 1940s. He was the father of the late governor Mel Carnahan, who was killed in a plane crash just three weeks before Election Day in 2000, when he ran against then-Sen. John Ashcroft. Carnahan won the race posthumously, and his wife, Jean Carnahan, went on to serve in the seat for two years. A decade after her father’s campaign, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan – sister of Rep. Russ Carnahan – ran for Senate but lost in a Republican wave year. And Russ Carnahan lost a primary to Rep. Lacy Clay earlier this year.

Montana – The Williamses

Longtime former congressman Pat Williams’s wife, Carol, is state Senate minority leader, and Carol’s father, Vern Griffith, was mayor of Butte, Mont.

Nebraska – The Weavers

Former governor Arthur Weaver was the son of a congressman (Archibald) and the father of a congressman (Phillip) and an ambassador (Arthur Jr.).

Nevada – The Reids

No political discussion about Nevada is complete without mention of the vaunted “Reid machine” – the driver of Democratic politics in the state. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is the state’s most powerful pol, and he keeps close tabs on what happens back home. In 2010, there were two Reids on the statewide ballot, when Rory Reid, an attorney and son of the Democratic leader, waged a bid for governor. He lost badly, but his father survived what once looked like long odds when he defeated tea party favorite Sharron Angle (R).

New Hampshire – The Sununus

John H. Sununu served as governor in the 1980s and later went on to the White House, where he was George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff. His son, John E. Sununu, served in both the House and Senate. The elder Sununu has been among Mitt Romney’s most vocal surrogates this year.

New Jersey – The Frelinghuysens

Here’s a political family with roots that extend back to the 18th century, when Frederick Frelinghuysen served as a senator from New Jersey. Three more Frelinghuysens served as senators, with one of them – Frederick T. Frelinghuysen – also serving as U.S. Secretary of State. Current Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) is the son of another congressman, Peter Frelinghuysen.

New Mexico – The Lujáns


Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.)

The Lujáns include current Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D) and former state health secretary Michelle Luján Grisham (D), who is about to join him in Congress. Ben Ray’s father, Ben, was speaker of the state House, and Michelle’s grandfather, Eugene, was chief justice of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a distant Republican relative, Manuel Luján, served as a longtime congressman and later as U.S. secretary of the interior, and his father of the same name was mayor of Santa Fe.

New York – The Roosevelts

Yes, New York has the Cuomos and the Rockefellers and many other political families. But how can you beat a family with two presidents and a beloved first lady? Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, was actually a distant cousin of Franklin’s and a niece of Theodore Roosevelt.

North Carolina – The Scotts

Kerr Scott was a governor and senator in the 1950s, his son Bob was governor in the early '70s, and Bob’s daughter Meg Scott Phipps was state agriculture commissioner before her conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in 2003. Kerr’s father and brother also served in the state assembly.

North Dakota – The Burdicks

Longtime former senator Quentin Burdick was the son of former congressman Usher Burdick, and Quentin’s wife, Jocelyn, was appointed to his seat when he died in 1992. Usher’s son-in-law, Robert Levering, was also a congressman from Ohio.

Ohio – The Tafts

The most famous Taft is the William Howard Taft, who is the only person to serve as both president and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The president’s son and grandson – Robert A. Taft and Robert Taft Jr. – were both senators, and his great-grandson, Bob Taft, served as governor of Ohio for two terms last decade. The Tafts are also tied to the Chafees of Rhode Island through marriage.

Oklahoma – The Borens

Retiring Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) is the son of former governor and senator David Boren and the grandson of former congressman Lyle Boren.

Oregon – The Robertses

Former governor Barbara Roberts and former state labor commissioner Mary Wendy Roberts left office in the mid-1990s, ending a streak of three decades during which a Roberts was in public office. Barbara’s husband and Mary’s father, Frank, was a longtime state senator. Frank’s second wife, Betty, who kept the Roberts name after their divorce in 1965, was also a state legislator and later a state supreme court justice.

Pennsylvania – The Muhlenbergs

This dynasty spans more than two centuries and includes the first speaker of the U.S. House (Frederick Muhlenberg), former senator Peter Muhlenberg, four members of Congress and governor with a different last name, John Shulze.

Rhode Island – The Chafees


Former Republican senator and now independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee

Voters returned Republican-turned-independent former senator Lincoln Chafee to statewide office in 2010, electing him governor in a hard-fought three-way race. Chafee's father, John Chafee, was a Republican senator, and the political gene appears to go back even further: Lincoln Chafee’s great-great grandfather Henry Lippitt, served as governor in the late 19th century.

South Carolina – The Rutledges

Former South Carolina president/governor and U.S. Supreme Court chief justice John Rutledge was the brother of another governor, Edward Rutledge, and father to a congressman, John Rutledge Jr.

South Dakota – The Herseths

Former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) is the granddaughter of two former statewide officeholders, former governor Ralph Herseth and former secretary of state Lorna Herseth. 

Tennessee – The Gores

Former vice president Al Gore followed in his father, Al Gore Sr.'s, footsteps to the House and the Senate, where he served for eight years before beginning his tenure in the Clinton administration. Gore, of course, was also the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000.

Texas – The Bushes

Another family with two presidents. George W. Bush was governor of Texas before moving up to the White House. His father, former president George H.W. Bush, was a congressman from Texas for two terms in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Bush family’s political reach isn't confined to the Lone Star State, of course; Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, and family patriarch Prescott Bush (George H.W. Bush's father) was a senator from Connecticut.

Utah – The Mathesons

Rep. Jim Matheson’s (D) father, Scott Matheson, was governor of Utah, and his brother, Scott Jr., was a candidate for governor in 2004, losing to Jon Huntsman.

Vermont – The Kidders

The Kidder family spans several Northeastern states, but it includes five former Vermont state legislators (Lyman, Joseph, Ira, Francis and Jefferson), and Jefferson later served as lieutenant governor. All served in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Virginia – The Byrds

The most recent Byrd was the longtime senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, but he bears no relation to the most famous political Byrd family, from the state next door. Harry F. Byrd and Harry F. Byrd Jr. served five consecutive decades in the Senate, and Harry Sr. was also a governor. Harry Sr.’s uncles were both congressmen with the last name Flood (Henry and Joel). The Byrd family even includes two men who served in the state House of Burgesses before independence.

Washington – The Minors and the Moriartys

By far the least dynastic dynasty on this list. The Minors include former Seattle mayor Thomas Taylor Minor and his grandson, two-decade congressman Thomas Minor Pelly. They are joined by marriage to the Moriartys, a family that includes a former U.S. attorney named Charles Moriarty and his son, a state legislator of the same name.

West Virginia – The Manchins

Former governor and current Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D) uncle was secretary of state and treasurer. And the senator’s wife is involved in politics, too; Gayle Manchin was elected vice president of the state Board of Education in 2011.

Wisconsin – The La Follettes

This name is all over the history books in Wisconsin, with members including two senators (Robert Jr. and Robert, who also served as governor), another governor (Phillip) and a state attorney general (Bronson). A distant relative, Doug La Follette, has now served more than three decades as secretary of state.

Wyoming – The Simpsons

Former senator Alan Simpson (R) is the best-known of the family. He burst back onto the national scene in 2010 when he was tapped to co-chair the president’s bipartisan debt commission. Simpson's father, Milward, was a senator and governor, and his son, Colin, is a former state House speaker who lost a bid for governor in 2010.

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Chris Cillizza · October 5, 2012