As a child, Rep. William Lacy Clay (right) watched from the House floor as his father, former Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., was sworn in.
Boren, who just announced he would not run for re-election, still seeks his father’s advice and counsel on the big issues he faces.
“He said he probably would have done the same thing if he was in my shoes,” Boren said.
Pryor’s father, former Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.), also gave him some good advice, he said, but it was hard advice to follow.
“When I was packing up the moving van and driving out the driveway, he said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t get on the Ethics Committee,’” Pryor said. “He served there for 12 years.” Mark has now served on the same committee for six years.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), daughter of the late Rep. Edward Roybal (D-Calif.), said that when she was a freshman, no one offered to help her, presuming she already knew what to do.
“I had to stop and ask, ‘How do I vote? I don’t know, either,’” she said. “The assumption is that you just automatically know things. But it’s like if your father is a surgeon, just because you grew up with him doesn’t automatically mean you know how to be a surgeon.”
Not All Fun and Games
Having a Congressional father often made for some tougher childhoods.
For those who didn’t live in the District, Dad was often halfway across the country — and for those who did, he often worked far later than they would have liked.
“Starting in 1961, Dad was gone,” Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) said of his father, the late Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Texas). “He couldn’t be in San Antonio during the week because his workplace was in D.C., and we couldn’t move to D.C. because finances didn’t allow it.”
It’s also tough to be constantly in the Washington “fishbowl,” as Roybal-Allard calls it.
“An elected official’s family has to develop a thick skin,” Gonzalez said. “Politics is rough-and-tumble, and you’re in the public eye. That parent is your mom or dad, so it can get very personal and very hurtful, especially for small children.”
Political parents also invite constant comparisons for their children.
“There’s always going to be a comparison by the electorate,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes it’s not kind. ‘Your father would never have done this.’ How many times you will hear that!”
With such a tendency to compare, distinguishing yourself takes on substantial importance.
“My father taught me something I try to teach my boys,” Dingell said. “As I told my son Christopher, I said, ‘Son, you be a first-class Christopher and not a second-rate John. You be yourself, not me.’”
Comparisons, however, aren’t always thorns in the sides of legacy Members.
“There will always naturally be comparisons or people will have fond memories of him or his service,” Pryor said of his father. “I think sometimes people do compare us, and that’s OK with me. I see that as a compliment.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.