Family Politics: When Water Is Thicker Than Blood

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 25, 2013 · 10:36 AM EDT

The relationship between parents and children can be complicated, particularly when both are politicians.

On Monday, state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced that he wouldn’t challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

In an interview with Reid Wilson of The Washington Post before his decision, Berger mentioned professional commitments to his colleagues at the state level as well as personal commitments to his family.

Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. wants to run for Congress when GOP Rep. Howard Coble’s 6th District seat becomes open, and local sources say the elder Berger wasn’t interested in taking a political step this cycle that might hurt his son’s chances.

Berger wouldn’t have to give up his post as one of the most powerful politicians in the state just because his son was running for Congress. But he has been openly supportive of his son’s political aspirations in private conversations and realized that a Senate run could make his son’s life more complicated.

On the flip side, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan probably could have walked into the governor’s office next year, including knocking off the incumbent governor in the primary. But she declined to run because her father is one of the most powerful politicians in the Land of Lincoln.

“I feel strongly that the state would not be well served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case,” Lisa Madigan said in a July statement. “With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor.”

You could say that Michael Madigan has more to lose than Berger, considering his daughter is apparently waiting for him to step down in order to step up the political ladder. But the elder Madigan has been speaker for 30 years, so it’s not like the 71-year old politician has just reached the summit of his career.

“Lisa and I had spoken about that on several occasions, and she knew very well that I did not plan to retire,” the speaker said after his daughter’s announcement. “She knew what my position was. She knew.”