Elections Test Power of Political Dynasties

"Rory" reads Democratic nominee Rory Reid's campaign posters in the Nevada governor's race, playing down the last name he shares with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is facing a highly competitive race for re-election. The younger Reid's campaign declined an interview request about how he's handling his family ties.

By contrast, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson and his son, Republican attorney general nominee Alan, have hit the campaign trail together. "I am bursting with pride," the elder Wilson says.

Still, at least one of them worried about how voters might react to two Wilsons on the ballot. Alan Wilson says he "got permission" from dad before running.

"I asked him, 'If I run, is it going to have a negative impact on you?' Because if the answer was yes, there's no way I would have done it," the younger Wilson told USA TODAY.

For his part, the congressman worried that he might have hurt his son's chances with his headline-making "You lie!" outburst at President Obama during a health-care speech in September 2009.

There have been some notable flops at the ballot box this year.

Ethan Hastert, son of former House speaker Dennis Hastert, lost an Illinois GOP primary in his father's old district in February. Pete Domenici Jr., namesake son of a former U.S. senator, came in fourth out of five candidates in New Mexico's GOP gubernatorial primary in June.

On the South Carolina coast, two political scions — Carroll Campbell and Paul Thurmond— lost the GOP nomination for the 1st Congressional District to state legislator Tim Scott. Thurmond is the son of the late U.S. senator Strom Thurmond, who represented South Carolina for nearly 50 years in the Senate and was governor for four years.

Campbell, son of a former South Carolina governor with the same name, says his legacy was more of a burden than a benefit in the campaign.

"I tried to embrace the Tea Party crowd," he says. "They didn't want to vote for me because my name was Carroll Campbell."

Other political heirs are staying out of high-profile campaigns: West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, daughter of a former governor, passed up a chance to run for the Senate, even after state lawmakers adopted an amendment ensuring that she could run for re-election to Congress and Robert Byrd's old Senate seat at the same time. She said she was concerned about giving up her seniority in the House. Vice President Biden's son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, declined to run for his father's old Senate seat, citing pressing business in his current job.

And for the first time in 64 years, there won't be a Kennedy in Congress next year. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., announced in February that he wouldn't seek a ninth term. His cousin, former congressman Joe Kennedy, opted not to run for the Massachusetts Senate seat that was left vacant by the death of Patrick's father, Edward Kennedy.

'It's Time That We Rise Up'

Some of the hostility to entrenched political power is bubbling up in the Missouri race.

"It's time that we rise up and that we rid Washington of these career politicians," said Kristi Nichols, one of several self-described Tea Party candidates challenging Blunt for the GOP Senate nomination.

On the campaign trail, both candidates are downplaying their high-powered backers and storied pedigrees.

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