Rep. Bono Mack is the widow of Sonny Bono of Sonny and Cher fame, which also makes her Chaz Bono’s stepmother. She represents California’s 36th District, which includes Palm Springs — a demographically odd stew of gays, Republican retirees, gay Republican retirees and, increasingly, Democrats. (And, for the benefit of non-Floridians, Connie Mack is a guy. His real name is Cornelius McGillicuddy IV.)
The story has a much different profile in Florida, of course. The most crucial difference is that the name Connie Mack is extremely well known there. Connie Mack’s great-grandfather, Connie Mack I, was a famous sports figure and his father, Connie Mack III, was a two-term Republican U.S. senator.
Here’s how the Orlando Sentinel, a newspaper that is notoriously in the bag for the GOP, reports Mack IV’s entry into the race:
The decision by U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV to follow in the footsteps of his father and run for U.S. Senate could throw a jolt into what’s been a lackluster battle of Republicans looking to challenge two-term U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida.
A big reason: name recognition.
Mack, who represents southwest Florida, shares a name with both his father, who served in the U.S. Senate for 12 years until 2001, and his great-grandfather Connie Mack, a baseball Hall of Fame catcher and manager.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he [Mack] takes the lead immediately because of name identification from his dad. I think he becomes the candidate to beat now,” said John Dowless, a Republican political consultant based in Orlando.
Compared to the rest of the field — which remains unknown to more than half the GOP electorate, according to polls — Mack, 44, is a well-known commodity. A former state legislator now in his fourth U.S. House term, he is the only sitting officeholder in the top-tier GOP field.
The front-runners — former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner — have been out of office for months or years. Two others — former Ruth’s Chris CEO Craig Miller and Plant City businessman Mike McCalister — have never held office.
That gives Mack a powerful — and oftentimes free — microphone to promote an agenda, such as the “Mack Penny Plan” that he introduced in May that aims to balance the federal budget in part by annual spending cuts of 1 percent for six years.
Incumbency also helps with fundraising, and Mack will need to raise cash quickly.
It’s going to be a busy year for the Bono-Mack household. Rep. Bono Mack is one of five California Republicans who are considered vulnerable next year. A recent poll found that she only has a 43 percent approval rating in her increasingly Democratic district.