John Kennedy (Louisiana politician)

Last updated

John Kennedy
John Neely Kennedy, official portrait, 115th Congress 2.jpg
United States Senator
from Louisiana
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Servingwith Bill Cassidy
Preceded by David Vitter
Treasurer of Louisiana
In office
January 10, 2000 January 3, 2017
Governor Mike Foster
Kathleen Blanco
Bobby Jindal
John Bel Edwards
Preceded by Ken Duncan
Succeeded by Ron Henson (Acting)
Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue
In office
Governor Mike Foster
Succeeded byBrett Crawford [1]
Personal details
John Neely Kennedy

(1951-11-21) November 21, 1951 (age 69)
Centreville, Mississippi, U.S.
Political party Republican (2007–present)
Other political
Democratic (before 2007)
Spouse(s)Rebecca Stulb
Education Vanderbilt University (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)
Magdalen College, Oxford (BCL)
Website Senate website

John Neely Kennedy (born November 21, 1951) is an American lawyer and politician who has served as the junior United States Senator from Louisiana since 2017. A Democrat turned Republican, he previously served as the Louisiana State Treasurer from 2000 to 2017.


Born in Centreville, Mississippi, Kennedy graduated from Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia School of Law before attending Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. Kennedy was a member of the staff of Governor Buddy Roemer before unsuccessfully running as the Democratic candidate for state attorney general in the 1991 election. In 1999, he was elected as Louisiana State Treasurer; he was re-elected to that position in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015. Kennedy was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate in 2004 and 2008. In 2007, he switched parties and became a Republican.

In 2016, when U.S. Senator David Vitter opted not to seek re-election, Kennedy once again ran for U.S. Senate. He finished in first place in the November nonpartisan blanket primary and defeated Democrat Foster Campbell 61–39% in the December runoff before being sworn in on January 3, 2017. Kennedy was one of seven Republican senators to object to the certification of the 2020 president election.

Early life and education

Kennedy was born in Centreville, Mississippi and raised in Zachary, Louisiana. After graduating from Zachary High School as co-valedictorian in 1969, Kennedy entered Vanderbilt University, where his interdepartmental major was in political science, philosophy and economics. He graduated magna cum laude .

At Vanderbilt, he was elected president of his senior class and named to Phi Beta Kappa. After Vanderbilt, Kennedy received a Juris Doctor in 1977 from the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the University of Virginia School of Law, he was an executive editor of the Virginia Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. [2] In 1979, he earned a Bachelor of Civil Law degree with first class honours from Oxford University (Magdalen College) in England, where he studied under Sir Rupert Cross and John H.C. Morris. [3] [4]

Early career

He has written and published the following books and articles: Louisiana State Constitutional Law (LSU Publications Institute, Jan. 1, 2012), The Dimension of Time in the Louisiana Products Liability Act (42 Louisiana Bar Journal, Jan. 1, 1994), The Role of the Consumer Expectation Test Under Louisiana's Products Liability Doctrine (69 Tulane Law Review 117, Jan. 1, 1994), A Primer on the Louisiana Products Liability Act (49 Louisiana Law Review 565, Jan. 1, 1989), Assumption of the Risk, Comparative Fault and Strict Liability After Rozell (47 Louisiana Law Review 791, Jan. 1, 1987) and The Federal Power Commission, Job Bias, and NAACP v. FPC (10 Akron Law Review 556, Jan. 1, 1977).

He was a partner in the Chaffe McCall law firm in New Orleans. He also served as an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University's Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Baton Rouge from 2002 to 2016. [5]

Political career

In 1988, Kennedy became special counsel to then-Democratic Governor Buddy Roemer. [6] In 1991, he was appointed as cabinet secretary and served in that post until 1992. In 1991, he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for state attorney general to succeed the retiring William J. Guste. [7]

Following his first stint in state government, Kennedy returned to the private practice of law until 1996. That same year, he was appointed Secretary of the state Department of Revenue in the cabinet of Republican Governor Mike Foster. [8]

Treasurer of Louisiana

Kennedy at the Natchitoches Christmas Parade in 2014 Natch8 (15798650089).jpg
Kennedy at the Natchitoches Christmas Parade in 2014

Kennedy left the Foster administration when he was elected as Louisiana State Treasurer in 1999, having unseated incumbent Democrat Ken Duncan, 621,796 (55.6 percent) to 497,319 (44.4 percent). [9] Kennedy was re-elected Treasurer without opposition in 2003, 2007 and 2011. [10] In 2015, he defeated his single opponent challenger with 80 percent of the vote.

In the 2004 election, Kennedy endorsed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry over George W. Bush. [11]

After being courted by the Republican Party for months, Kennedy announced in a letter to his constituents that he was leaving the Democratic Party and joining the Republicans, effective August 27, 2007. In his letter, he announced that he would run again for State Treasurer. [12]

During his third term as state treasurer to which he was elected in 2007, Kennedy devised a twenty-four-point plan by which the state could save money. [13] Governor Bobby Jindal said Kennedy could "streamline" his own department. Many of Kennedy's ideas were derived from the Louisiana Commission for Streamlining Government, which he served on in his official capacity as State Treasurer. [14]

U.S. Senate


Then-President-elect Donald Trump and Kennedy campaigning in Baton Rouge LAGOP GOTVR Dec2016 176 (31214059490).jpg
Then-President-elect Donald Trump and Kennedy campaigning in Baton Rouge

In 2004, Kennedy campaigned for the United States Senate seat held by John Breaux, who retired from elected office. Kennedy ran as a Democrat in the state's jungle primary, losing to Republican David Vitter and Democrat Chris John. [15] Vitter won the election in the primary. [12] [16]

Kennedy ran for the U.S. Senate again in 2008, this time as a Republican. He was defeated, 52.1 to 45.7 percent, by incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu; the same year, Republican presidential nominee John McCain defeated Barack Obama in Louisiana, but Obama was elected nationwide. [17] [18]

On January 26, 2016, Kennedy announced that he would run for the U.S. Senate for a third time. In seeking to succeed the retiring David Vitter, he faced more than twenty opponents. [19] Vitter announced his retirement from the Senate in 2015 after losing a bid for governor to the Democrat John Bel Edwards. [20]

Kennedy's senatorial campaign was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Rifle Association, the National Right to Life Committee, the American Conservative Union, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and President-elect Donald Trump. [21] [22] Kennedy, who had supported Vitter for governor the previous year, won the jungle primary and faced Democrat Foster Campbell in a December 10 runoff election. President-elect Donald Trump—who had received Kennedy's support in the 2016 presidential election [23] —campaigned for Kennedy the day before the runoff election. [24] Kennedy defeated Campbell, 536,204 (61 percent) to 347,813 (39 percent), in the runoff election. Kennedy lost the largest populated parishes of Orleans and East Baton Rouge, in which he had been reared, but he was a runaway winner in Campbell's home parish of Bossier. [25]


Kennedy was sworn in as Louisiana's junior U.S. Senator on January 3, 2017.

In June 2017, Kennedy "grilled" Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a hearing before the Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service, Education and Related Agencies. In the exchange, he contrasted the lack of school choice available for younger pupils in many rural areas of the country to the widespread brands of mayonnaise available on the grocery store shelf: "Now I can go down to my overpriced Capitol Hill grocery this afternoon and choose among about six different types of mayonnaise. How come I can't do that for my kid?" Kennedy said. The remark attracted national attention. DeVos replied that the Trump administration budget proposal would give parents and students more power and opportunity so that American education could again become "the envy of the world." [26]

Kennedy has attracted comment for his manner in the Senate. In a January 2018 article The Huffington Post reported: "Since being elected to the Senate a year ago, Kennedy ... has made a name for himself on Capitol Hill with his wit, humor and penchant for folksy expressions ― a notable feat in a place where jargon and arcane procedure tend to reign supreme". [27]

In the months leading up to the 2019 election, Kennedy was mentioned as a prospective candidate for governor in the nonpartisan blanket primary against Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards. But on December 3, 2018, Kennedy announced that he would not run for governor, and said that he preferred to remain in the Senate. [28]

After Joe Biden won the 2020 election and Donald Trump refused to concede, Kennedy announced that—following the precedent set by Democratic lawmakers in 2001, [29] 2005, [30] and 2017 electoral college certifications [31] —he would, along with eleven other Republican senators, object to certifying portions of the 2021 United States Electoral College count on January 6, [32] citing election integrity concerns. [33] He was participating in the certification when the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol happened. He called the attack "despicable and shameful." Kennedy called the participants rioters and for them "to go to jail and pay for the destruction they caused." [34] When the Capitol was secure and Congress returned to complete the certification, Kennedy voted to sustain the objection to certifying Arizona’s electoral votes [35] —Arizona being the tightest state race in the 2020 presidential election [36] —calling for a bipartisan electoral review commission "to ensure full confidence and transparency in our elections." [37] Kennedy did not object to certifying the electoral votes from Pennsylvania or any other state. [38] As a result of his vote, Big Easy Magazine called for Kennedy to be expelled from Congress. [39]

Committee assignments


Political positions

Senator John Kennedy received a D 62% Liberty Score by Conservative Review. [40] He holds a lifetime score of 67% from Heritage Action for America.

Animal rights

Senator Kennedy stated he would be filing a bill to "prohibit airlines from putting animals in overhead bins" following the death of a dog in an overhead bin while flying United Airlines during March 2018. [41] He said, "officials would face significant fines" if noncompliant. [42] In March 2018, Kennedy introduced the Welfare Of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act, but the bill died in committee. [43]


Kennedy is "strongly opposed" to abortion. [44]

Gun law

Kennedy has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which endorsed him during his 2016 Senate run. He is very close to former NRA president Wayne LaPierre. [45] [46]

Judicial nominees

Kennedy crossed party lines to oppose the appointment of three of U.S. President Donald Trump's U.S. District Court judicial nominees who Kennedy believed were not qualified for the positions. They were Jeff Mateer, Brett Talley, and Matthew S. Petersen. All three nominations were withdrawn by the White House. [47] On December 13, 2017, during Petersen's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kennedy questioned Petersen about basic legal procedure, [48] asking if he knew what the Daubert standard was, and what a motion in limine was. Petersen struggled to answer. [49] [50] Kennedy also voted against the nomination of Gregory G. Katsas to the D.C. Circuit, though the nomination was still confirmed. [51]

Criminal justice

He opposed the First Step Act. The bill passed 87–12 on December 18, 2018. [52]

Net neutrality

John Kennedy introduced a bill on March 7, 2018, that would "prohibit companies like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or throttling web content." [53] Kennedy was one of three Republican senators, the others were Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who voted with the entirety of the Democratic caucus on May 16, 2018, to overturn the FCC's repeal of net neutrality.

Foreign policy

In April 2018, Kennedy was one of eight Republican senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and acting Secretary of State John Sullivan expressing "deep concern" over a report by the United Nations exposing "North Korean sanctions evasion involving Russia and China" and asserting that the findings "demonstrate an elaborate and alarming military-venture between rogue, tyrannical states to avoid United States and international sanctions and inflict terror and death upon thousands of innocent people" while calling it "imperative that the United States provides a swift and appropriate response to the continued use of chemical weapons used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces, and works to address the shortcomings in sanctions enforcement." [54]

In January 2019, Kennedy was one of eleven Republican senators to vote to advance legislation intended to block President Trump's intent to lift sanctions against three Russian companies. [55]

Personal life

Kennedy resides in Madisonville in St. Tammany Parish outside New Orleans with his wife Becky and son Preston. He is a founding member of his local Methodist church in Madisonville. [5] He is not related to the Kennedy family of Massachusetts, [56] but is distantly related to Louisiana author John Kennedy Toole. [56]

Electoral history

Louisiana United States Senate election, 2004
Republican David Vitter 943,014 51.03%
Democratic Chris John542,15029.34%
Democratic John Kennedy275,82114.92%
Democratic Arthur A. Morrell47,2222.56%
Independent Richard M. Fontanesi15,0970.82%
Independent R. A. "Skip" Galan12,4630.67%
Democratic Sam Houston Melton, Jr.12,2890.66%
Turnout 1,848,056
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
Louisiana United States Senate election, 2008
Democratic Mary Landrieu (incumbent) 988,298 52.11% +0.41%
Republican John Kennedy867,17745.72%-2.58%
Libertarian Richard Fontanesi18,5900.98%n/a
Independent Jay Patel13,7290.72%n/a
Independent Robert Stewart8,7800.46%n/a
Turnout 1,896,574100.0%
Democratic hold Swing
2016 Louisiana US Senate blanket primary [57]
Republican John Kennedy482,59125.0%
Democratic Foster Campbell 337,83317.5%
Republican Charles Boustany 298,00815.4%
Democratic Caroline Fayard 240,91712.5%
Republican John Fleming 204,02610.6%
Republican Rob Maness 90,8564.7%
Republican David Duke 58,6063.0%
Democratic Derrick Edwards51,7742.7%
Democratic Gary Landrieu45,5872.4%
Republican Donald "Crawdaddy" Crawford25,5231.3%
Republican Joseph Cao 21,0191.1%
No party Beryl Billiot19,3521.0%
Libertarian Thomas Clements11,3700.6%
No party Troy Hebert 9,5030.5%
Democratic Josh Pellerin7,3950.4%
Democratic Peter Williams6,8550.4%
Democratic Vinny Mendoza4,9270.3%
No party Kaitlin Marone4,1080.2%
Libertarian Le Roy Gillam4,0670.2%
Republican Charles Eugene Marsala 3,6840.2%
Republican Abhay Patel 1,5760.1%
No party Arden Wells1,4830.1%
OtherBob Lang1,4240.1%
OtherGregory Taylor1,1510.1%
United States Senate election in Louisiana, 2016 [58]
Republican John Kennedy 536,191 60.65% +4.09%
Democratic Foster Campbell347,81639.35%+1.68%
Total votes'884,007''100.0%'N/A
Republican hold

See also

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Party political offices
Title last held by
Ken Duncan
Democratic nominee for Treasurer of Louisiana
Title next held by
Derrick Edwards
New title Republican nominee for Treasurer of Louisiana
2007, 2011, 2015
Succeeded by
John Schroder
Preceded by
Suzanne Terrell
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Louisiana
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Bill Cassidy
Preceded by
David Vitter
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Louisiana
(Class 3)

Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Ken Duncan
Treasurer of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Ron Henson
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
David Vitter
U.S. senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
Served alongside: Bill Cassidy
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Maggie Hassan
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Catherine Cortez Masto