COMMENTARY | Democrats hold the Senate and hope to take the House of Representatives. But to do so in the 2014 election will require performing well in a number of conservative states (South Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska) or moderate ones (Florida, New Mexico and Colorado).
The Democratic Party strategy is to rely upon respected family names to appear on the ballot. The latest case is Gwen Graham, an official with the Leon County (Fla.) Schools. She hopes to unseat Rep. Steve Southerland, who has held the second congressional district in Florida for the last two terms.
Graham is the daughter of former two-term governor and three-term senator Bob Graham. In all my time in Florida, I never came across a more popular politician in any state. He was known for having a near-photographic memory, owing to his incredible note-taking ability. He also pioneered a practice where he would work a series of everyday jobs just to learn how residents of his state made a living. Nobody ever came close to defeating him for office.
But what area of Florida is she running for? Known as “the FSU district” for being home to Florida State University, it was held by Rep. Pete Peterson and Rep. Allen Boyd, both Democrats. Only Rep. Bill Grant broke the streak, and he switched parties (from Democrat to Republican) immediately after the election only to be trounced in his next try. So the district, which encompasses Tallahassee, has strong Democratic tendencies.
Graham is one of many kids of Democrats who can rely on a family name to do well in elections. In South Dakota, Tim Johnson is retiring, but his son Brendan Johnson, a U.S. Attorney, is hoping to run for his seat.
Six years ago, a number of Democratic candidates with famous last names did well in Senate elections. Mark Begich upset Ted Stevens in Alaska; he has family political connections. Tom Udall won in New Mexico, while Mark Udall captured the Colorado seat (both were related to Stewart and Morris Udall, who were congressmen in Arizona. Mark Pryor, son of longtime Arkansas Senator David Pryor, won reelection, as did Mary Landrieu, who captured her third term in office. Her brother was lieutenant governor and is now New Orleans mayor, just like their father was.
It won’t be easy for Democrats in 2014, but with famous family names, a number of them have decent chances in red and purple states next year.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.