Madeleine McKenna, the 22-year-old daughter of Attorney General Rob McKenna, this week followed in her father's footsteps by winning election as student president of the University of Washington.

Share story

Politics often runs in the family — think of the Kennedys, the Gores, the Bushes.

In Washington state, perhaps it’s time to add the McKennas.

Madeleine McKenna, the 22-year-old daughter of Attorney General Rob McKenna, this week followed in her father’s footsteps by winning election as student-body president of University of Washington.

The younger McKenna beat out four other candidates. She won about 2,600 votes, 59 percent of the total, in the final runoff between the top two candidates. Rob McKenna won the post in 1984, the first step in his political career.

It’s rare for two generations to get elected UW student president. In another instance, the 1948 Tyee yearbook states that Gordon “Rusty” Callow was elected student-body president after his father, “Rusty” Sr., held the post in 1915.

“Well, she voted for Obama and I voted for McCain,” Rob McKenna said Friday. “On the other hand, we’re both passionate about improving the lives of students.”

His daughter said she’s tended to avoid debates with her dad on hot-button issues, such as health care.

“We honestly don’t really talk about it that much. He’s my dad, and my role as daughter comes first,” she said. “I really respect his intelligence, values and integrity, even if we are under different banners.”

Madeleine McKenna, a senior in International Studies and Economics, said she’s been involved in student politics since her freshman year. She helped start the Husky Mentors program, which in its first year matched about 500 incoming freshmen to 500 older students.

“When I first came here, it was a really big school,” she said. “I wanted to create more of a community and bring the university down to size.”

She’s also worked on the student transit-pass program and plans to spend lots of time in Olympia next year, lobbying against further budget cuts to higher education.

Her father, who has been widely touted as a Republican candidate for governor in 2012 but who has yet to publicly declare whether he will run, said he’s impressed by his daughter’s skills when it comes to organizing political campaigns.

Asked if he would want her helping him out on his upcoming campaign for governor, he answered in the following way:

“Yeah, she … Oh, that’s a trick question, you almost got me there. She has expressed an interest in helping me out on my next campaign in 2012, whatever that may be.”

He said he’d love to have his daughter help with creative organizing and social media in that next campaign.

As for the future, Madeleine McKenna said she’s considering getting some work experience before returning to graduate school to study law or public administration. She wants a public-service career, she said, whether behind-the-scenes or in elective office — which she knows can be bruising.

“I watched my dad doing it growing up,” she said. “It’s a tough lifestyle.”

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or