|United States Senator
January 3, 2017
Serving with Bill Cassidy
|Preceded by||David Vitter|
|Treasurer of Louisiana|
January 10, 2000 – January 3, 2017
John Bel Edwards
|Preceded by||Ken Duncan|
|Succeeded by||Ron Henson (Acting)|
|Born||John Neely Kennedy
November 21, 1951
Centreville, Mississippi, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (2007–present)|
|Democratic (before 2007)|
|Education||Vanderbilt University (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)
Magdalen College, Oxford (BCL)
John Neely Kennedy (born November 21, 1951) is an American attorney and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Louisiana since January 3, 2017. After prevailing in Louisiana's 2016 U.S. Senate jungle primary, Kennedy defeated Democratic candidate Foster Campbell by more than 21 percentage points in the 2016 Senate election runoff.
Born in Centreville, Mississippi, Kennedy was raised in Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish. He graduated in 1969 from Zachary High School. He finished magna cum laude in 1973 from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a degree in Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics.
At Vanderbilt, he was elected president of his senior class and named to Phi Beta Kappa. After Vanderbilt, Kennedy received a J.D. degree 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. In 1979, he earned a Bachelor of Civil Law degree with first class honours from Magdalen College, Oxford in England.
Prior to entering politics, Kennedy practiced law at the New Orleans and Baton Rouge firm of Chaffe McCall. Before he took office as state treasurer, Kennedy had served as appointed secretary of the Department of Revenue and was a legal counselor and secretary for then Governor Buddy Roemer.
In 1988, Kennedy became special counsel to then-Democratic Governor Roemer. In 1991, he was appointed cabinet secretary and served in that post until 1992. In 1991, he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for state Attorney General of Louisiana to succeed the retiring William J. Guste.
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.
Kennedy left the Foster administration when he was elected State Treasurer in 1999, having unseated incumbent Democrat Kenneth "Ken" Duncan, 621,796 (55.6 percent) to 497,319 (44.4 percent). Kennedy was re-elected Treasurer without opposition in 2003.
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.
During the State Treasurer's term to which he was elected in 2007, Kennedy devised a twenty-four-point plan by which the state could save money. Governor Bobby Jindal said Kennedy could "streamline" his own department. Many of Kennedy's ideas were derived from the Louisiana Commission for Streamlining Government, of which the Treasurer was a member.
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. Vitter defeated John to win the seat in the general election.
Kennedy ran for the U.S. Senate again in 2008. This time, Kennedy ran 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.
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. Vitter announced his retirement from the Senate in 2015 after losing a bid for governor to the Democrat John Bel Edwards.
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 Mike Pence and President Donald Trump. 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—campaigned for Kennedy the day before the runoff election. 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.
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."
Kennedy has attracted comment for his manner in the Senate. 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. At a time when many of his colleagues are using modern forms of media to communicate with their constituents ― e.g., Twitter ― Kennedy has managed to command viral headlines with little more than Southern wisdom and a Pelican State drawl, distilling events of the day into blunt terms regular people can understand."
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. He said, "officials would face significant fines" if noncompliant.
Kennedy bucked party lines to block the appointment of three U.S. District Court judicial appointees by U.S. President Donald Trump of individuals whom Kennedy believed were not qualified for the position. These included Matthew Spencer Petersen, Brett Talley, and Jeff Mateer. All three nominations were withdrawn by the White House.
John Kennedy introduced a bill on March 7, 2018, that would "prohibit companies like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or throttling web content.". Kennedy was one of three Republican senators, alongside Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, that voted with the entirety of the Democratic caucus on May 16, 2018, to overturn the FCC's repeal of net neutrality.
Kennedy resides in Madisonville in St. Tammany Parish outside New Orleans with his wife, Becky, and son, Preston. He attends North Cross United Methodist Church in Madisonville. He is unrelated to the Kennedy family of Massachusetts.
|Louisiana Attorney General primary election, 1991|
|Republican||Kai David Midboe||24,118||2|
|Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 1999|
|Democratic||Ken Duncan (inc.)||497,319||44|
|Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2003|
|Democratic||John Kennedy (inc.)||n/a||100|
|Louisiana U.S. Senate primary election, 2004|
|Democratic||Sam Houston Melton, Jr.||12,289||1|
|Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2007|
|Republican||John Kennedy (inc.)||n/a||100|
|Louisiana U.S. Senate primary election, 2008|
|Democratic||Mary Landrieu (inc.)||988,298||52|
|Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2011|
|Republican||John Kennedy (inc.)||n/a||100|
|Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2015|
|Republican||John Kennedy (inc.)||787,677||80|
|Louisiana U.S. Senate primary election, 2016|
|Republican||John C. Fleming||204,026||11|
|11 additional candidates||46,173||2|
|United States Senate election in Louisiana, 2016|
|Treasurer of Louisiana
|Party political offices|
No nominee in 1999
Ken Duncan in 1995
|Democratic nominee for Treasurer of Louisiana
No nominee in 2007, 2011, and 2015
Derrick Edwards in 2017
|New title||Republican nominee for Treasurer of Louisiana
No nominee in 2015
John Schroder in 2017
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Louisiana
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Louisiana
|U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
Served alongside: Bill Cassidy
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority
Catherine Cortez Masto
|115th||Senate: B. Cassidy | J. N. Kennedy||House: S. Scalise | C. Richmond | R. Abraham | G. Graves | C. Higgins | M. Johnson|
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