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Offspring of Famous Names in November Elections

September 26, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ There could be another Mondale in office in Minnesota, another Brown in California and another Udall in the Southwest after the November election, but this time there will be no Matsunaga from Hawaii in Congress.

Also, for the first time in six years, nobody in the Kennedy family will be trying for a political debut.

Offspring of politicians are encountering mixed success as they try to follow in parental footsteps. The connection may help them raise funds and have their names recognized, but it opens them to attack on grounds they are merely running on the family name.

Take Minnesota, where former Vice President Walter F. Mondale’s son, Ted, 32, is challenging two-term state Sen. Phyllis McQuaid of St. Louis Park, a Minneapolis suburb. ″If his name was Ted Brown, no one would take the race seriously based on his lack of experience,″ Ms. McQuaid said in a telephone interview. ″He has no background of any kind other than that he has worked in his father’s campaigns.″

Mondale concedes that this kind of criticism is likely to be effective with some voters.

″There are those I think that probably want to punish you because they feel that everything you have gotten in life has been handed to you,″ he said. ″I guess you have to go the extra mile to show who you are and what your background is and what you want to do.″

Both candidates said they are in a tough race.

″You take a name as well-known in Minnesota as Mondale, it’s clearly very much of a threat,″ Ms. McQuaid said.

″It’s an uphill battle all the way,″ said Mondale. ″I’m running against a long-term incumbent. But I think I’ve got a good shot at winning.″

Mondale’s father was Minnesota attorney general and represented the state in the Senate before becoming vice president and running for president. He has appeared at campaign functions on his son’s behalf.

In California, Kathleen Brown, daughter of former governor and elder statesman Edmund G. Brown and sister of still-controversial former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., is the Democratic nominee for state treasurer.

″I’m a different shade of Brown,″ she tells audiences.

″I think the advantage of growing up in a family that has been in politics is that you understand what the pitfalls are and what the opportunities are,″ Ms. Brown said. ″Having grown up in a political family, I pledged I would never get into politics.″

She said she changed her mind ″when it came time for sending my kids off to public schools and seeing the problems that public education was having.″ She served two terms as a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, a nonpartisan elective post, before running for treasurer.

When it comes to fundraising, she said, ″I think there is a credibility that I have as a candidate walking in the door because of my family name, but I think once I am in that door, nobody is going to give money to me if they don’t think that I am a credible and viable candidate in my own right. It doesn’t matter what your name is, people are not in the business of throwing money away on bad horses.″

Tom Udall, son of Kennedy administration Interior Secretary Stewart Udall and nephew of Rep. Morris K. Udall, D-Ariz., is leading in the polls for attorney general in New Mexico. An Albuquerque Journal poll found that 87 percent of the people knew who he was, compared with 18 percent for his Republican opponent, state Sen. William Davis.

Davis, a first-term state senator, attributes Udall’s big edge in name familiarity to his previous races for Congress and a lively primary for the attorney general nomination.

″That’s the real issue, not his dad’s or his uncle’s name,″ he said. ″Those connections help him get money, but I don’t think they help him much in name identification. I don’t think we pay that much attention to Arizona politics in New Mexico.″

Honolulu attorney Matthew Matsunaga, 31, campaigned for Congress partly on the basis of his long residence in Washington as the son of the late Sen. Spark Matsunaga. He said the network of contacts made by his father would help him. Matsunaga finished third in a three-candidate field in the Sept. 22 primary.

Robert Kennedy’s daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, said she thinks the advantages of being from a political family ″far outweigh the disadvantages.″

She ran for a House seat from Maryland and lost in 1986. This year, she’s sitting the campaign out, running a student service program in Baltimore.

″Politics is very tough, and a lot of people who haven’t been accustomed to being involved with lots of different issues and in the public eye find it quite difficult,″ she said. ″And so having been accustomed to that makes it easier. The great thing of being from a political family is that you’re used to criticism.″

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