Herb Kohl’s nephew is seeking to become the first Badger State U.S. Representative since the 19th Century to be preceded by a relative in the chamber

This is the sixth in a series of Smart Politics reports on ‘congressional royalty’ in the U.S. House of Representatives. Previous reports studied Florida, Michigan, IllinoisWyoming, and California.

After a few months of speculation, business executive Dan Kohl announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge two-term Republican U.S. Representative Glenn Grothman in Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District.

Kohl is the nephew of former four-term Democratic U.S. Senator Herb Kohl and has never previously held elected office, although he had a failed run for his party’s nomination in the 22nd Assembly District back in 2008.

At the moment, Kohl does not have a clear path to the nomination, with marketing consultant Scott Olmer also seeking the 6th CD party nod.

If Kohl is the nominee, and gets a strong national partisan wind at his back, he will have a chance to accomplish something unseen in Wisconsin for over 125 years.

A Smart Politics review of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress finds that only eight of Wisconsin’s 183 U.S. Representatives since statehood were preceded in Congress by a family member (4.4 percent), with the last to do so in 1892.

The most recent member of the Wisconsin U.S. House delegation to get elected with such political lineage was Republican Joseph Babcock in 1892.

Babcock, a state assemblyman and the grandson of two-term New Hampshire Democratic U.S. Representative Joseph Weeks (1835-1839), won election to the state’s 3rd CD by 8.0 points over Democrat A.H. Krauskop.

Babcock would go on to win seven terms and was the eighth and last member of the Wisconsin U.S. House delegation with relatives who served in Congress before their arrival in the chamber.

Babcock’s seven such predecessors were elected over a three-decade stretch beginning in the 1860s:

  • Republican Ithamar Sloan (1863-1867): Brother of Wisconsin Republican U.S. Representative Andrew Sloan (1861-1863)
  • Republican Cadwallader Washburn (1867-1871): Brother of Maine Whig/Republican U.S. Representative Israel Washburn (1851-1861) and brother of Illinois Whig/Republican U.S. Representative Elihu Washburne (1853-1869). [A third brother, Minnesota Republican William Washburn, was elected to the House in 1878].
  • Republican Gerry Hazelton (1871-1875): Nephew of New York Republican U.S. Representative Clark Cochrane (1857-1861)
  • Republican George Hazelton (1877-1883): Brother of Wisconsin U.S. Representative Gerry Hazelton (1871-1875) and nephew of New York Republican U.S. Representative Clark Cochrane (1857-1861)
  • Democrat Gabriel Bouck (1877-1881): Nephew of New York Jacksonian U.S. Representative Joseph Bouck (1831-1833)
  • Republican Hugh Price (1887-1887): Son of Wisconsin Republican U.S. Representative William Price (1883-1886)
  • Democrat John Mitchell (1891-1893): Son of Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Representative Alexander Mitchell (1871-1875). [The younger Mitchell also served in the U.S. Senate from 1893-1899].

In addition to these aforementioned eight U.S. Representatives, Wisconsin has had three U.S. Senators preceded by a family member on Capitol Hill.

The most famous on this list is, of course, Republican-turned-Progressive Robert La Follette, Jr., who served four terms in the senate from 1925 to 1947.

La Follette was the son of former three-term U.S. Representative (1885-1891) and four-term Republican U.S. Senator “Fighting Bob” La Follette (1906-1925) and took over his father’s seat after winning a 1925 special election following the 1924 Progressive Party presidential nominee’s passing.

Democratic Senator Henry Dodge (1848-1857) was the half-brother of Missouri Jacksonian/Democratic U.S. Representative Lewis Linn (1833-1843) and the father of Iowa Delegate Augustus Dodge (1840-1846). Augustus Dodge also later entered the U.S. Senate in December 1848 – approximately a half-year after his father.

Democratic Delegate (1837-1839) and Senator (1848-1859) George Jones was the brother-in-law of Missouri Delegate (1817-1821) and Senator (1821-1827) John Scott.

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  1. Nikoli Orr on June 9, 2017 at 7:13 am

    1. Actually, CA (Panetta, Jimmy; Thursday 19 of 11/2015) is the “fifth” installment of the “congressional royalty” series!
    2. I gather that the “relative” eligible for this occasional series would need to be no more distant than First Cousin (4 degrees of relativity), no?

    • Dr. Eric Ostermeier on June 9, 2017 at 8:18 am

      Indeed this is the sixth edition – good recall there! [Edited at top]. Yes, other than in-laws first cousin seem to be the most distant relation noted by the Biographical Directory.

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