SACRAMENTO -- When Dean Florez thought about who could best replace him in the state Assembly, he quickly narrowed the list to one: his mom.
So next year, Fran Florez -- mother of Dean -- will be running to fill the seat her son once held.
"I'm happy to support her," said Sen. Dean Florez of his mom, the mayor of Shafter. "She's the most qualified in the district, period."
If she wins next year, it will mark the first time the mother of a sitting California lawmaker will take office.
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But, in another way, her candidacy is hardly blazing new ground. It's yet another sign that running for political office in California has increasingly become a family affair.
From husbands and wives to brothers to cousins to sons and daughters and now even a mom, a growing number of legislative candidates are following in familial footsteps.
In fact, if all the all-in-the- family candidates win in 2008, as many as one in six California lawmakers could have -- or have had -- a relative in the Legislature. Take Tom Berryhill, a Modesto Republican first elected to the state Assembly in 2006.
The son of the late Clare Berryhill, who served in the Legislature in the 1970s, young Tom grew up around politics.
"Being up here for years with dad, I understood Sacramento," said Berryhill, in an interview in his Capitol office after finishing his first year as a lawmaker. "I'd never been down on the floor and punched the button (to vote) -- that was a little bit different."
But he might not be the only Berryhill in Sacramento starting next year. Younger brother Bill is running in the neighboring Assembly district.
The Calderon family can do the Berryhills one better, with three brothers -- Tom, Charles and Ron -- all spending time in the statehouse. In fact, because term limits restrict legislators to six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate, the Calderons have occupied the same Los Angeles-area seat -- in a row -- since 1999.
Currently, Charles serves in the Assembly, Ron in the Senate. Before they won in 2006, brothers had not served simultane-ously in the Legislature since Ralph and Clayton Dills in the 1940s.
Bruce Cain, professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley, said the two biggest factors in the boom of lawmaking families are money and name recognition.
"Because politics is so expensive and people's knowledge about the state Legislature is relatively low, voters don't have a lot to go on," he said. "There is a tendency to stick with the familiar."
Lawmakers, political strategists and academics agree that relatives of legislators, past and present, can more easily connect with the Sacramento political establishment and deep-pocketed lobbying community.
GOP Assemblyman Bill Maze says his connections should help his wife, Becky, who is running for his Visalia-area seat in 2008 as he gears up for a Senate run in 2010. "She's been intimately involved in all the political stuff I've been doing since I started the process back in 1990," he said.
That's not to say family political pedigree is a guarantee of success. Last year, three lawmakers' wives -- Dianne Harman, Laura Canciamilla and Renee Chavez -- all lost in the Assembly primaries for their husbands' seats. In San Bernardino County, a pair of brothers, Jeremy and then-Assemblyman Joe Baca Jr., the sons of a Democratic congressman, lost legislative bids.
The family name can be a hindrance, said Assemblyman Gene Mullin, who in 2002 beat Gina Papan, daughter of longtime lawmaker Lou Papan.
Mullin, whose son is running for City Council in South San Francisco, says a political fam-ily name is a double-edged sword. "He gets a bump because he has my name, and he gets some doors slammed from people who don't like me," the Democrat said.
The family trend isn't just limited to state lawmakers.
Look no further than the presidency, where President Bush followed in his father's footsteps. And 2008 Democratic front- runner Sen. Hillary Clinton's candidacy follows her husband's eight-year presidency.
Closer to home, Sacramento has been represented in Congress since 1978 by a Matsui -- Rep. Robert Matsui until his Jan. 1, 2005, death, when he was succeeded by his wife, Doris.
But the trend is particularly stark in the California Legislature, in part because of the quick churn created by term limits.
The biggest growth has been in husband-wife tag teams.
Meet the Runners. Sharon is in the Assembly; George is in the Senate. The Lancaster Republicans sponsored the anti-sex offender Jessica's law in 2006 and are aiming an anti-gang initiative for the 2008 ballot.
They soon could be joined by the Stricklands of Moorpark (with Audra in the Assembly and Tony in the Senate) as well as the Mazes of Visalia.
So what's the lure? The pay and perks for state lawmakers are certainly good. They earn $116,208 per year starting in December plus tax-free per diem payments of about $30,000, and employ staff members in Sacramento and their local districts.
But the Florezes have a different take: It's in the genes.
"There are families that are just public-service driven," said Dean Florez, as his mother nodded. "I imagine one day my son will run for some office, hope- fully.
"My daughter, for sure, is going to be the president of the United States," the Shafter Democrat added. "I have no doubt. She's 7."