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For Seven Hopefuls, Politics Is in Their Genetics

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Left: John Bustamante (D), Texas' 23rd district. Right: Rep. Albert Bustamante (D-Texas), served Jan. 3, 1985, to Jan. 3, 1993.

Family political legacies have been around since the days of the Founding Fathers. Just ask the Frelinghuysens or, later, the Kennedys.

In fact, this is the first Congress in almost 50 years that doesn’t have a Kennedy serving — but that’s likely to change come 2013.

Attorney Joseph Kennedy III is one of seven sons of former House Members running for Congress this cycle, a group that will find out in the coming months the pluses and perils that come with being an ex-Congressman’s kid on the campaign trail.

The sons of former Reps. Albert Bustamante (D-Texas), Gary Condit (D-Calif.), Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), Porter Goss (R-Fla.), John Murphy (D-N.Y.) Donald Payne (D-N.J.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) are seeking to follow in their fathers’ footsteps this cycle.

All are running in districts similar or close to the ones represented by their fathers, so they get an automatic boost in name identification among voters. But they also face some unique challenges.

Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who succeeded his father, former Rep. Bill Clay (D-Mo.), explained that one has to walk a careful line in succeeding a parent.

On one hand, Clay said, “you have to run on your own record. Voters are smart enough to know that these seats cannot be handed off.” But on the other, “don’t run away from your family or your family name,” he said, noting how proud he was of his father’s accomplishments in Congress.

Business consultant and former congressional aide Chauncey Goss (R), running for Florida’s open and heavily Republican 19th district, echoed those sentiments.

“My message is that I’m my own person,” explained Goss, 46, who worked on the House Budget Committee after his father resigned in 2004 to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. “Having said that, I’m very proud of my father ... and I’m proud of what he’s done as he’s paved a path for me of public service with integrity.”

In a generational twist, the elder Goss was replaced in Congress by Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), who is now running for the Senate seat his father, ex-Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), once held.

The younger Mack is one of 27 sons or daughters of former Members currently serving in Congress.

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