Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is running for governor. He wants voters to think his mother, a former GOP congresswoman, has not helped advance his political career.
North Carolina's Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is the son of former Republican Rep. Sue Myrick. As he seeks his party's nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper next year, Forest is trying to pretend that he has not used that connection to advance his political career.
In a radio interview last week, flagged by the progressive research group American Bridge 21st Century, Forest took pains to claim that he has pulled himself up by his "bootstraps" and never capitalized on his mom's connections.
"When you grow up and you're introduced your whole life... this is Sue's son Dan, at some point you just want to be who you are and have to not rely on that. We've never run on that, we've never tried to capitalize on that, that sort of thing," he told "Tying It Together" host Tim Boyum. He added that Myrick has respected his independence, telling him, "You're gonna make it on your own, kid. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps."
"I've never been a name-dropper, in that," Forest concluded.
But Forest has relied on Myrick's connections and support throughout his political career.
According to campaign finance data from the National Institute on Money in Politics, Myrick transferred more than $12,000 from her congressional campaign account to her son's political campaigns between 2011 and 2013, when she retired from Congress.
In May 2011, he told the Charlotte Observer that he would welcome support from his mother for his first lieutenant governor race. "I think she will be very willing to once the time comes," he told the paper. "She'll be in campaign mode, too."
Later in that race, he did "name-drop" his mother's involvement.
He tweeted in November 2011 that his mother had been present at a campaign reception.
— Dan Forest (@DanForestNC) November 15, 2011
The following year, he announced that his mother would lead the Women for Dan Forest group in support of his campaign.
— Dan Forest (@DanForestNC) April 24, 2012
In August 2016, the Raleigh News & Observer reported that Forest had "effectively leveraged his mother's political connections to become a heavyweight fundraiser."
While it is not illegal — nor even especially unusual — for a candidate to rely on family connections for political advantage, it hardly qualifies as pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.