May 21st, 2010
12:44 PM ET
13 years ago

Nixon grandson seeks U.S. House seat

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Nixon's grandson is running for Congress."](CNN) - You may not have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore, but they do on Long Island.

Meet Christopher Nixon Cox, congressional candidate from the Hamptons and grandson of the nation's 37th president. Cox, a 30-year-old Republican business consultant, is hoping to ride a wave of voter anger all the way to Washington.

And in a race where he's trying to emerge from a crowded primary field and topple a four-term Democratic incumbent, he's not shying away from his family's controversial political past.

"When voters think about it, it'll be a big positive," he predicted.

In seeking public office, Cox is wading into tricky political waters. Family dynasties are a well-established part of the landscape in American politics. George W. Bush followed his father to the White House; Jimmy Carter's grandson recently won a Georgia state Senate seat; the Kennedys dominated Massachusetts for decades. But Cox enters the political arena shouldering a uniquely divisive legacy, most notably his grandfather's decision to resign the presidency at the height of the Watergate scandal in 1974.

Cox is the only son of President Nixon's elder daughter, Tricia Nixon Cox. His father, Edward Finch Cox, is chairman of the New York State GOP. Empire State Republicans have suffered a series of electoral setbacks in recent years; they currently control only two of the state's 29 U.S. House seats.

The optimistic Cox is convinced he can buck the recent downward trend. He's bullish on the state party's prospects, claiming that he'll be surprised if it doesn't pick up at least five U.S. House seats in November.

"We'll see a big tent Republican Party come out of this election," he predicted, putting him at odds with a number of political analysts detecting a steady rightward drift for the GOP.

Cox himself is campaigning on a platform of corporate and personal income tax cuts, as well as targeted domestic spending reductions to help balance the budget. Like most Republicans, he gives President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan a failing grade. He sees the recent ouster of veteran Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter as "a clear sign people are disgusted with incumbents."

Closer to home, he blasts incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop, a Democrat, for backing what he contends are economically disastrous tax increases and cap-and-trade carbon emissions policies.

A spokesman for Bishop dismissed Cox as a wealthy carpetbagger out of touch with the district.

"Chris Cox is a Manhattan elitist who's running for Congress and trying to fool the people of Suffolk County," Jon Schneider said. "The guy just registered here a couple of weeks ago and is living in his father's West Hampton mansion. ... Tim Bishop has been an effective representative for Suffolk County who actually lives in Suffolk County."

As for Watergate, Cox doesn't believe it'll be much of a factor. Most people who mention Nixon nowadays, he said, cite events such as the president's 1972 trip to China, generally regarded as a turning point in the Cold War.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said most voters in the district are unlikely to draw a connection between Cox and Nixon.

"Politicians and other public figures from George W. Bush to Cal Ripken have learned the power of a popular 'brand name,' " Holland noted. "But that's usually true only if the name is shared. Since Cox's last name is not 'Nixon,' voters are unlikely to make the connection between him and his grandfather. So if Cox thinks it's a liability, he may escape any problems. But if he think his family connection is a plus, he will have to make a serious effort to remind voters that he is a Nixon as well as a Cox."

Cox says he considers Nixon a role model from a policy perspective, highlighting his grandfather's domestic initiatives in areas such as welfare reform and willingness to work with Democrats like Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Although Nixon is largely remembered as an introvert in the public eye, Cox has a very different set of memories. Born almost five years after his grandfather left the political arena, Cox remembers family trips to the circus, weekend sleepovers and baseball games.

Former Mets star "Keith Hernandez was a friend of my grandfather," he said. "We used to get tours of the dugout at Shea Stadium."

Cox says he has no desire to replicate his grandfather's meteoric political rise. Nixon was elected to the House in 1946, the Senate in 1950 and the vice presidency in 1952.

I only want to be an "ambassador for Suffolk County," Cox said. "I can be the person who can bring business in."

Cox does, however, take one piece of political advice from Nixon to heart. "When you're in the arena, you'll get knocked down," he said. "You have to keep fighting. That's very important."

Ultimately, "people have to be judged as individual candidates," he said. "If I'm not serving my district well, people won't care who my grandfather was."

Filed under: Christopher Cox
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. harold

    He thinks the Nixon label will be a positive huh?.. I suppose he likes B-P and their Oil spill just like Rand Paul does ....He can't do anything for anyone except maybe he intends to take away the Health Insurance Law just passed to insurure Americans.. Or give us a small government to fight the Terrorists.. Wow...

    May 21, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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