Is this the Game of Thrones? Family dynasties keep casting their shadows over Georgia’s political races.
The Bush family joined the fray when former President George H.W. Bush endorsed GOP Senate candidate David Perdue. Democratic Sen. candidate Michelle Nunn, who has often mentioned her connection to the 41st president through her Points of Light Foundation, received support from Bush’s son, Neil, who castigated Perdue for claiming that the foundation donated money to an Islamist terrorist group.
Neil Bush, 59, is chairman of Points of Light, founded by George H.W. Bush, and Nunn served as the nonprofit’s CEO before running for the Senate.
George H.W. Bush’s Perdue endorsement came during the same week that Bill Clinton, who defeated Bush in 1992, campaigned in Atlanta for Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and the great-grand niece of former U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson. Another frequently cited family tie: gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter is a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.
The Clinton-Bush rivalry could enter a new phase in 2016 if former first lady Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for president and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush emerges as the GOP candidate. Jeb Bush, George H.W. Bush’s son and the brother of Neil Bush and former President George W. Bush, is considered one of the GOP’s strongest hopes against Hillary Clinton.
Michelle Nunn’s connection to the Clintons and Bushes could make for some interesting dynamics if Nunn wins election to the Senate this year and Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are the 2016 presidential candidates. Michelle Nunn would likely endorse Clinton, but the Bush tie might raise some doubts.
With changing demographics reportedly making Georgia more of a blue state, a Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush battle could be one of the most competitive presidential races here in years. If Hillary Clinton wins the election with Michelle Nunn’s endorsement, Nunn would be an attractive candidate for the Clinton cabinet. At the same time, Michelle Nunn would also give bipartisan legitimacy to a Jeb Bush administration.
Also last week, President Obama was conspicuously ignored by Nunn and Carter when Obama came to Atlanta to check on the CDC’ ebola virus efforts. Obama’s visit highlighted another family connection: First lady Michelle Obama recently campaigned in Atlanta with Nunn and Carter.
Although Bush lost the presidency after one term in a bad economy, his endorsement will boost Perdue, said Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint.
“A lot of Georgia voters have positive memories of Bush 41,” Swint said. “The state has a lot of negative feelings toward Obama and other Democrats.”
However, Swint said, “the Bush name is blunted somewhat by his son Neil screaming bloody murder” about the GOP ad concerning Nunn’s Points of Light Foundation and an Islamist charity.
“Neither Points of Light nor Michelle Nunn have had anything to do with funneling money from our organization to terrorists’ organizations,” the 59-year-old Neil Bush said, according to the AJC. “ Anyone who makes that claim needs to understand the facts and then they need to denounce those claims. To attack an organization founded by my father, whose integrity is unimpeachable, to smear our organization for political gain, is in my opinion shameful.”
As family political fortunes play out, Atlanta’s political and business leaders are stepping up support for Carter.
Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta and sponsor of last weekend’s Music Midtown Festival, is hosting a fund-raiser this week for Carter at his Buckhead penthouse
condominium along with Mayor Kasim Reed, according to an invitation disclosed by the AJC.The event will be co-hosted by Laura and Rutherford Seydel, daughter and son-in-law of Turner Broadcasting founder Ted Turner, former owner of the Atlanta Braves and Hawks.
Speaking of the Hawks, another host of the event is Steve Koonin, the team’s CEO involved in a recent national controversy involving the franchise. After the disclosure of a racially insensitive memo, Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson announced he would sell his share of the team. The subsequent discovery of a racist comment by General Manager Danny Ferry led to Ferry taking a leave of absence and Koonin issuing an apology to Hawks fans. Seydel is also a part owner of the team.
Atlanta’s sports community also figured in governor’s race when incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal participated in the ground-breaking for the Braves’ new stadium in Cobb County.