A political family (also referred to as political dynasty) is a family in which several members are involved in politics and businesses, particularly electoral politics. Members may be related by blood or marriage; often several generations or multiple siblings may be involved.
A royal family or dynasty in a monarchy is generally considered to not be a "political family," although the later descendants of a royal family have played political roles in a republic (such as the Arslan family of Lebanon would be). A family dictatorship is a form of dictatorship that operates much like an absolute monarchy, yet occurs in a nominally republican state.
In the United States, many political dynasties (having at least two generations serving in political office) have arisen since the country's founding:
Four noted U.S. political families — Adams, Harrison, Roosevelt, Bush — have had two members that served as President of the United States.
- The first dynasty with presidential connections was the Adams family. John Adams served as the second President (after serving as the first vice president), and his son John Quincy Adams served as the sixth president. John Quincy's son Charles served as U.S. ambassador (then called minister) to the United Kingdom and as a U.S. congressman. A fourth-generation member of the family (John Quincy Adams II) served as a state representative in Massachusetts, and his son Charles was mayor of Quincy, Massachusetts and secretary of the Navy in the Hoover administration.
- Another early political dynasty was the Harrison family, of which six generations served in public office from the late 18th through mid 20th centuries. Benjamin Harrison V was one of the early governors of Virginia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His son William Henry Harrison was the ninth U.S. President. William's son John Scott Harrison served in the U.S. House of Representatives, while his son Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd President (marking the first and only grandfather and grandson to serve as president). Benjamin's son Russell Benjamin Harrison served as a state representative and state senator from Indiana in the 1920s, and Russell's son William served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1950s and '60s.
- The Cincinnati, Ohio-based Taft family has had a legacy of public service ranging from the late 19th through early 21st century. Alphonso Taft served in President Ulysses S. Grant's cabinet. Two of his sons followed him into public service: Charles Phelps Taft served as a U.S. congressman, and William Howard Taft was the 27th President and later U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice (the only one to hold both offices). William Howard's sons: Robert A. Taft was a long-serving U.S. senator (and for a time Senate Majority Leader), and Charles Phelps Taft II served as mayor of the family's hometown of Cincinnati. The fourth generation of Tafts includes Robert Taft Jr., who served as a U.S. congressman and senator, and Seth Taft, who was commissioner of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area). Robert III (better known as Bob) served as governor of Ohio at the turn of the 21st century.
- The New York-based Roosevelt family produced two presidents. Theodore (#26), and Franklin (aka FDR, the 32nd president and the only one to serve more than two terms), were fifth cousins by blood but uncle and nephew by marriage: FDR was married to Theodore's niece Eleanor Roosevelt, daughter of Theodore's younger brother Elliott. Eleanor served as an informal adviser to her husband during his presidency, served as U.S. representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, and chaired the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women during the Kennedy administration. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. served as governor of Puerto Rico and The Philippines and as a New York state assemblyman. Theodore III served as Pennsylvania's secretary of Commerce. FDR and Eleanor's sons, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. and James Roosevelt served in the U.S. House of Representatives; and Elliott Roosevelt served as mayor of Miami Beach, Florida.
- In the early to mid 20th century, the Massachusetts-based Kennedy family became one of the most prominent political dynasties in American history. Patriarch Patrick Joseph Kennedy served as a Massachusetts state representative and state senator. His son Joseph P. Kennedy served as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. The children of Joseph P. Kennedy include John F. Kennedy (aka JFK, 35th President of the United States), Robert F. Kennedy (aka RFK, U.S. Senator and Attorney General), Ted Kennedy (U.S. Senator), and Jean Kennedy Smith, U.S. ambassador to Ireland. The next generation includes former U.S. congressmen Joseph Patrick Kennedy II and Patrick Joseph Kennedy II, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Maryland House of Delegates member Mark Shriver, Connecticut state Sen. Edward Kennedy Jr., and former Santa Monica, California mayor Bobby Shriver. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at the time was married to Maria Shriver (niece of JFK, RFK, and Ted), served as governor of California (Maria Shriver served as First Lady and founded the California Museum) throughout most of the 2000s. The fifth generation includes U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III
- Peter Schweizer describes the Bush family as "the most successful political dynasty in American history." Four generations have served in elective office: Prescott Bush served in the U.S. Senate. His son George H.W. Bush served as the 41st U.S. President. George H.W.'s oldest son George W. was the 43rd President. Another of George H.W.'s sons, Jeb Bush, served as governor of Florida, and Jeb's son George P. Bush serves as Texas Land Commissioner.
- Bill Clinton served as the 42nd U.S. president, after having served as attorney general and governor of Arkansas. His uncle, Roy Clinton, served in the Arkansas state legislature in the 1950s. President Clinton's wife, Hillary Clinton, served as U.S. senator from New York from 2001-09 and U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration, and was the 2016 Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
- The current U.S. First Family, the Trumps, initially gained fame as a New York City-based business dynasty, then as reality TV stars, but can be considered a political dynasty as well. Donald Trump is the 45th and current U.S. President, his sister Maryanne is a retired federal judge, and daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner serve as White House senior advisers. Daughter-in-law Lara Trump serves as a senior adviser on his campaign staff. President Trump is also a fourth cousin of the late U.S. senator John Heinz.
Other notable U.S. political dynasties include:
- The Ashcrofts: John Ashcroft served as a U.S. senator and later U.S. attorney general during the George W. Bush administration; his son Jay serves as the attorney general of Missouri
- The Bayh family: Birch Bayh was a three-term U.S. senator representing Indiana. His son Evan served two terms each as governor of Indiana, and as a U.S. senator (holding his father's former seat).
- The Bidens: Joe Biden was a seven-term U.S. senator, and a two-term Vice President under Barack Obama. His son Beau was state attorney general for Delaware.
- The Blunts: Roy Blunt is a former U.S. congressman and current U.S. Senator representing Missouri, while his son Matt served one term as governor of Missouri.
- The Browns: Edmund "Pat" Brown and his son, Jerry Brown, both served as governor of California. Jerry's sister, Kathleen, was a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education and later California State Treasurer. Jerry and Kathleen's cousin, Hal Brown, served on the Marin County Board of Supervisors.
- The Celebrezze family: Frank D. Celebrezze served as safety director for the City of Cleveland and as a municipal court judge. His younger brother Anthony served as mayor of Cleveland, was a JFK/LBJ cabinet official, and a federal judge. Frank's sons: Frank Jr. (who went by simply "Frank") was chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, and James was a municipal court judge. Anthony's son Anthony Jr. (more commonly called "Tony") served as an Ohio state senator, Ohio secretary of state, and state attorney general. Third generation: Frank III (more commonly called "Frank Jr.") is an appeals court judge and former Ohio Supreme Court justice. James Celebrezze's daughter Leslie is a municipal court judge in Cleveland, and her younger brother Nicholas was an Ohio state representative.
- The Cheneys: Dick Cheney served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as a cabinet official for Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush, and Vice President under George W. Bush. His daughter Liz is currently a U.S. House member representing Wyoming (holding her father's former congressional seat).
- The Cuomos: Mario Cuomo was a three-term governor of New York in the 1980s and '90s. His son Andrew was a Clinton administration cabinet official and is the current (and like his father a three-term) governor of New York.
- The D'Alesandros: Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. served three terms as mayor of Baltimore, Maryland and five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His daughter Nancy (Pelosi) has served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is a two-time and current Speaker of the House (the highest political office a woman has held in U.S. history). Her brother Thomas III served a term as mayor of Baltimore.
- The Daleys: Richard J. Daley served as Mayor of Chicago from 1955-1976, and was considered one of the nation's most powerful mayors. Three of his sons followed in his political footsteps - eldest son Richard M. was the longest-tenured Chicago mayor, serving from 1989-2011, middle son John was an Illnois state representative and state senator, and was Cook County commissioner, and youngest son Bill served as a cabinet official for Bill Clinton, and Chief of Staff for Barack Obama.
- The DeWines: Mike DeWine is the current governor of Ohio and was previously a U.S. senator and congressman, as well as an Ohio state senator, lieutenant governor, and state attorney general. His son Pat is a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.
- The Dingells: John Dingell Sr. served 11 terms as a U.S. congressman representing Michigan, his son John then served 30 terms in the same seat following his father's death (the longest tenure in the history of the House of Representatives). John's wife Debbie was then elected to her husband's seat following his retirement (all totaled, the same seat has been held by a member of the Dingell family continuously since 1933), and his son Christopher served four terms as a Michigan state senator, then becoming a Michigan circuit court judge.
- The Gilligans: John J. Gilligan served as a U.S. congressman in the 1960s and governor of Ohio in the early 1970s. His daughter Kathleen (Sebelius) served as governor of Kansas in the 2000s, and as an Obama administration cabinet official.
- The Gores: Albert Gore Sr. was a U.S. congressman and U.S. senator, his son Al was a congressman, senator, Vice President under Bill Clinton, and the Democratic nominee for President in 2000.
- The Hannas: Mark Hanna was chairman of the Republican National Committee and a U.S. senator. His daughter Ruth Hanna McCormick was a U.S. congresswoman.
- The Huckabees: Mike Huckabee is a former governor of Arkansas, and twice ran for President (2008, 2016). His daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders currently serves as White House press secretary for President Trump.
- The Jones family: Walter B. Jones Sr. (a Democrat) served as a U.S. congressman representing North Carolina from 1966 until his death in 1992. His namesake son (a Republican) was also a U.S. congressman representing North Carolina, serving from 1995 until his death in 2019.
- The Kyl family: John Henry Kyl served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1960s and 1970s; his son, Jon, is a former U.S. House member and U.S. senator.
- The LaTourettes: Steve LaTourette was a nine-term U.S. congressman representing the eastern suburbs of Cleveland. His daughter Sarah is an Ohio state representative.
- The Levin family: Sander Levin was an 18-term U.S. congressman representing Michigan. His brother Carl was a six-term U.S. senator. Sander's son Andy is a current U.S. congressman, holding his father's longtime seat.
- The Lodge family: Henry Cabot Lodge was a U.S. congressman and later Senate Majority Leader. His grandson, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., was a senator from Massachusetts and an ambassador to Germany, South Vietnam, and the United Nations. Another grandson, John Davis Lodge, was Governor of Connecticut.
- The Mack Family: While more primarily known for their connections to baseball — Connie Mack won five World Series as owner/manager of the Philadelphia Athletics and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and his son Earle won two World Series as a coach/assistant manager on his father's team — the Macks also have political ties: Connie Mack III (Connie's grandson and Earle's nephew) was a U.S. congressman and U.S. senator, while Connie IV (Connie III's son, Connie's great-grandson, and Earle's great-nephew) was a Florida state representative and U.S. congressman
- The O'Neills: Thomas O'Neill was a city councilman in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His son Thomas Jr. (more famously known as "Tip") served 17 terms as a U.S. congressman, and was Speaker of the House from 1977-1987. Tip's son Thomas III served two terms as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.
- The Pauls: Ron Paul served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives; his son Rand is a U.S. senator. Both also ran for President (Ron in 2008 and 2012, Rand in 2016).
- The Paynes: Henry B. Payne was an Ohio state senator and later a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. His son Nathan P. Payne served as mayor of Cleveland.
- The Pence family: Mike Pence is the current Vice President, and a former U.S. congressman and governor of Indiana. His older brother Greg is a U.S. congressman (holding his brother's old seat). Greg's son John was his father's campaign manager, is a campaign adviser for President Trump.
- The Rockefeller family: Nelson Rockefeller was Governor of New York and later Vice President of the United States. His brother, Winthrop, was Governor of Arkansas. Their nephew, Jay Rockefeller, was a U.S. senator from West Virginia. Winthrop's son, "Win" Rockefeller, was lieutenant governor of Arkansas.
- The Romneys: George W. Romney was a former Michigan governor and Nixon administration cabinet official. His son Mitt was governor of Massachusetts and a current U.S. senator (as well as the 2012 Republican nominee for president). Mitt's niece Ronna Romney McDaniel currently serves as chair of the Republican National Committee.
- The Rooneys: While more prominently known as the owners of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, they also have served in public office: Dan Rooney — who won six Super Bowls as an owner/executive of the team, and is a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee — served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland during the Obama administration. His nephews also held office - Tom Rooney served five terms as a U.S. congressman, while Patrick served as a state representative in Florida.
- The Sununu family: John H. Sununu is a former governor of New Hampshire and was chief of staff for President George H.W. Bush. His oldest son John E. is a former congressman and U.S. senator; his younger son Chris is the current governor of New Hampshire.
- The Sykes family: Vernon Sykes is a current Ohio state senator and former state representative and city councilman in Akron. His wife Barbara is also a former Ohio state representative and Akron City Council member. Their daughter Emilia is an Ohio state representative and current Ohio House Minority Leader (all totaled, the same Ohio House seat has been held by a member of the Sykes family continuously since 1983).
- The Udall family: David King Udall Sr. was a representative to the Arizona Territorial Legislature. Four of his sons served in public office: Jesse Addison Udall was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives and later served as chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; John Hunt Udall and Don Taylor Udall served in the Arizona State Legislature; Levi Stewart Udall served on the Arizona Supreme Court. Stewart Udall, son of Levi, was a U.S. congressman from Arizona and later Secretary of the Interior. Mo Udall, another son of Levi, was also a U.S. congressman from Arizona. John Nicholas Udall, son of John Hunt Udall, was mayor of Phoenix, Arizona. Tom Udall, son of Stewart Udall, is a U.S. senator from New Mexico. Mark Udall, son of Mo Udall, was a U.S. congressman and senator from Colorado.
- The Zone family: Michael Zone was a Cleveland City Council member from 1960 until his death in 1974. his wife Mary was then appointed to fill his seat, and was elected to three full terms in her own right. Their son Matt has been a councilman since 2001, representing the same area as his parents. Matt's cousin Joseph is a Cleveland Municipal Court judge.
- In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the son of the late Pierre Trudeau, who also served as prime minister.
- The French Front National Party is led by Marine Le Pen, who succeeded her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in early 2011.
- Uhuru Kenyatta has been president of Kenya since 2013. He is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of the Republic of Kenya, who left office in 1978.
- Landsbergis of Lithuania: Vytautas Landsbergis, leader of the State in 1990-1992, is the son of Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis, a member of the government in the 1940s. Grandson Gabrielius Landsbergis is current leader of the Conservative Party. Another ancestor, Jonas Jablonskis, was an independence activist.
- In India, three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family (Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi) have served as Prime Minister of India.
- In Portugal: the minister of welfare state is married with a member of parliament involved in a scandal related with an ONG financed by the welfare state; The daughter of the same minister is the presidency minister; The interior minister is married with the sea minister; the justice minister husband was nominated for a public commission by a co-minister.
Hoping to prevent political dynasties, the Indonesian parliament, who represent the third largest democracy in the world, passed a law barring anyone holding a major office within five years of a relative.
- KQED, General Article: The Kennedys in Politics, <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/kennedys-politics/>
- Joseph Curl (January 20, 2005). "Rise of 'dynasty' quick, far-reaching". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on 2006-03-19.
- Feldmann, Linda. "Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush? Why Political Dynasties Might Make Sense. (+video)." The Christian Science Monitor 23 July 2014
- Solomon, Andrew (2015-07-18). "What's Wrong with Dynastic Politics?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-02-05.