FiveThirtyEight's Tom Schaller provides some historical perspective on the phenomenon of US Senate seats being passed from family member to family member -- a hot topic in Massachusetts now, given speculation about nephew Joe Kennedy or widow Vicki Kennedy as candidates to succeed the late US Sen. Edward Kennedy.
According to Schaller, "nepotism in the Senate is today at historical lows in American history." His data show that "dynasty seats" made up more than 60 percent of the Senate circa 1800 (when senators were appointed by legislatures, not elected by citizens) but are now less than 10 percent.
New England has historically had a large share of dynastic senators, but New Hampshire ousted one last year (John Sununu, son of a governor) and will see another retire next year (Judd Gregg, another son of a governor). Rhode Island kicked another one out in 2006 (Lincoln Chafee, son of a senator), and Connecticut's Chris Dodd (son of a senator) is thought to be in serious jeopardy in next year's election.
If a non-Kennedy is elected senator from Massachusetts next year, the region will have gone from five dynasty seats (out of 12) to just one in less than four years.