After his father's death, Daniel Arap Moi took over the leadership of the party and the nation. He took the younger Kenyatta under his wing, mentored him and secured him a position in his government.
When Moi decided not to run for re-election in 2002, he designated Kenyatta as his candidate of choice.
Kenyatta lost to current incumbent president, Kibaki, partly because of his ties to Moi, who was resented for overstaying his welcome as president.
Despite Kenyatta's loss at the polls, he became known for more than his father's last name.
When Kibaki sought to change the constitution to strengthen the president's powers, Kenyatta teamed up with then-opposition leader Odinga to rally against the change.
In 2005, voters shot down Kibaki's constitution draft, handing the two rivals a victory.
However, the two parted ways before the last election in 2007.
Kenyatta, who was not running for office then, threw his weight behind Kibaki, who was up against Odinga.
He later served in various positions in Kibaki's government, including finance minister and his latest role, deputy prime minister.
After the 2007 election
The last election stoked deep ethnic rivalries.
When Kibaki was declared the winner, Odinga alleged the vote was rigged, sending supporters battling on the streets.
The International Criminal Court has indicted Kenyatta for allegedly funding a local militia that conducted reprisal attacks at the time.
He has denied the charges, and vowed to cooperate with the court to clear his name.
His running mate William Ruto and two others are also indicted.
Kenya reneged on a deal to try the perpetrators in local courts, forcing the courts to step in.
A Western quandary
Before the 2013 election, Johnnie Carson, the top American envoy to Africa, warned that "choices have consequences," widely interpreted as a threat to Kenyans not to vote for him.
Carson's predecessor, Jendayi Frazer, slammed his stance against Kenyatta, describing it as "reckless and irresponsible."
"Kenyatta knows that he needs the United States, and the United States knows it needs Kenya," Frazer said. "While it (relations) might be awkward, there won't be a significant change in our policy stances toward Kenya or theirs toward us."