Sons take after their fathers
Published 9:03 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The political business is no different than any other. In fact, it is probably more beneficial to have a father in politics than in any other arena if you want to go into politics. You need to simply look at our most recent past president to see the advantage. George H.W. Bush made it easier for his son George W. Bush. You may not have seen the end of this legacy. Son Jeb Bush, a popular two-term governor of Florida, is waiting in the wings.
The Kennedy name has also spawned numerous brothers, sons and daughters onto the New England and national political scene. Another legacy I predict will blossom in the future is the daughter of Bill and Hillary, one Chelsea Clinton.
We have seen as much of the family advantage in Alabama politics as any other state. The monumental 1962 governor’s race saw three of the greatest names in Alabama politics that year: George Wallace, Big Jim Folsom and Ryan DeGraffenried. Twenty years later, the three best known and most promising young politicians in Alabama were Jim Folsom Jr., George Wallace Jr. and Ryan DeGraffenried Jr. All three owed their political prominence to inheriting their father’s names. Name identification is the most valuable asset a politician can acquire and these three inherited this precious commodity.
George Wallace was elected governor four times and his wife once. His name was on the ballot for governor and president ten times. Big Jim Folsom was elected governor twice and was on the ballot ten times. Ryan DeGraffenried ran second for governor in 1962 and was heavily favored to win in 1966 but died in a plane crash campaigning that year. Their sons did not reach the pinnacles that their fathers achieved but have benefited immensely from their names.
Jim Folsom Jr. has come the closest. He has been elected to the Public Service Commission three times and lieutenant governor three times. His last victory in 2006 was so close that I am convinced Big Jim’s reservoir of populous popularity in rural Alabama won that race from the grave for Little Jim.
Tim James, the son of two-term Gov. Fob James, is actively campaigning for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010. Jim Folsom Jr. will probably be elected to an unprecedented fourth term as lietenant governor next year. Rob Riley, the son of our current Governor Bob Riley, may be poised to make a venture into the political arena in the future. He could channel his father’s popularity into a future foray onto the Alabama political stage.
Steve Flowers is an Alabama political columnist.