I saw the Politico headline "Nepotism Charges Follow Son of Senator Before Possible Run" and thought "That can't be good."
But I read the article and found "nepotism charges" are apparently mostly Republicans firing up the fog machine:
“They don’t like a sense of entitlement. They don’t like the whole dynasty concept. They don’t like too much power in one or few persons’ hands,” GOP Sen. John Thune said of voters in his state. “There’s a real independence streak that goes through our state” [James Hohmann and Manu Raju, "Nepotism Charges Follow Son of Senator Before Possible Run," Politico, 2013.03.05].
Yes, which is why Mark Mickelson won a District 13 House seat.
Republican state chairman Craig Lawrence predicted the nepotism charges would cost Johnson 6 to 8 points.
“It’s nothing against Brendan Johnson personally,” he said. “It’s simply against the concept of United States Senate seats being part of your family estate” [Hohmann and Raju, 2013.03.05].
The only discussion of anything like nepotism comes on page 2, where the authors summarize the brief snitty eyebrow-raising in 2009 when Senator Johnson inquired about the delay in the approval of his son's nomination as U.S. Attorney, then mention the public perception a candidate Brendan Johnson would have to overcome.
But nothing in the article details real nepotism. The article mostly fuels speculation about a possible tussle between Brendan Johnson and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2014 (and Brendan, Stephanie, don't go there; let's sit down, have lunch, and put together a team game plan for keeping Tim's seat and winning the big chair in Pierre).
The perception of nepotism or dynastic ascension is quite real. If Brendan runs, he'll have to deal with it, just as Stephanie did in 2002, by laying out his positions and his skills.
But all this squawkery raises a question: what is the talented and ambitious son of a talented and ambitious public figure supposed to do? We love it when Nick Prostrollo takes over the family business that was handed to him by Pat, who had it handed to him by Jerry. Brendan won't get the Senate job handed to him; he'll have to earn it from the public.
We don't tell young men and women who grow up in car-dealing or farming families that they can't go into their parents' businesses. Can we impose such a restriction on the talented young people who grow up seeing their parents doing the people's work in government and who think, "Yeah, I'd like to make a difference that way, too"?