FORTUNATE SON? OR FUTURE CONGRESSMAN?
We knew Atlanta, Georgia media mogul Ted Turner owned property in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, but until this week we didn’t know he had a son who lived in the Palmetto State.
Then we got a press release this week heralding the U.S. Congressional candidacy of one Robert E. “Teddy” Turner IV – eldest son of the billionaire CNN founder/ Atlanta Braves owner. Turner’s release announcing his bid for the first congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Senator-designate Tim Scott described him as an “entrepreneur, conservationist, and maritime enthusiast who is well known in the Lowcountry for his philanthropic endeavors.”
It also described him as a “Republican,” a label that has certainly never applied to his famous father – an outspoken liberal and staunch supporter of U.S. President Barack Obama’s socialized medicine law.
So what’s the deal with Turner? Is he just another “fortunate son?” Or is he a legitimate political prospect?
Intrigued by his candidacy, we interviewed Turner this week in the wake of his surprise announcement. Specifically, we wondered how he planned to campaign in a district that recently selected Scott over a pair of famous “fortunate sons,” Carroll A. Campbell III (son of the late S.C. Gov. Carroll Campbell) and Paul Thurmond (son of the legendary U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond).
“No matter what I do, I’ll never escape being Ted’s son – and I wouldn’t want to,” he told us. “But I’m me. I’m very different from my father.”
In fact Turner won’t be holding back when it comes to criticizing political views that his father embraced – or embracing views his father has criticized.
“My dad, even though he is rich and famous and outspoken – we’re not on the same political team,” Turner said.
Asked how much of his own money he planned on pumping into the race, Turner brought up another key distinction between him and his father.
“One huge difference between Ted Turner III and Teddy Turner IV is about $2 billion,” he said, referring to his dad’s estimated $2 billion net worth. “So financially I’m going to be very similar to a lot of these other candidates who are running.”
Turner, 49, says he told his father about his congressional bid – and his dad volunteered to be his first contributor.
“He immediately asked what the minimum contribution was, though,” Turner jokes.
“My family is supportive but they’re not supportive in the way some would think – I’m treading on some shaky ground with them,” he added, referring to his conservative positions on various issues.
Speaking of … what is Turner campaigning on? Like most of the candidates he’ll be facing off against, he’s focused on fiscal issues.
“We can only borrow so much money,” he told us. “And raising taxes is not going to solve the problem. We need to take a look at cuts.”
Sounds good, right? Of course it does … but the devil for Turner (and all of the candidates seeking Scott’s seat) will be in the details of those proposed cuts. Also, with so many candidates likely to jump into this race Turner is going to have to go to great lengths to distinguish himself – beyond just the novelty of having a famous father. If he can do so via substantive policy, he’ll have a real shot. If he spouts the same rhetoric as the other guys devoid of any real substance, his bid will go nowhere.
Turner has one son – two-year-old Seldon – with his wife, Blair. He’s also father to 12-year-old Robert E. Turner V and 11-year-old daughter Riley.