John Kennedy (Louisiana politician)

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This article is about the U.S. Senator from Louisiana. For the 35th President of the United States, see John F. Kennedy. For other people named John Kennedy, see John Kennedy (disambiguation).
John Kennedy
John Neely Kennedy, official portrait, 115th Congress 2.jpg
United States Senator
from Louisiana
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Serving with Bill Cassidy
Preceded byDavid Vitter
Treasurer of Louisiana
In office
January 10, 2000 – January 3, 2017
GovernorMike Foster
Kathleen Blanco
Bobby Jindal
John Bel Edwards
Preceded byKen Duncan
Succeeded byJohn Schroder
Personal details
John Neely Kennedy

(1951-11-21) November 21, 1951 (age 67)
Centreville, Mississippi, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (2007–present)
Other political
Democratic (before 2007)
Spouse(s)Rebecca Stulb
Children1 son
EducationVanderbilt University (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)
Magdalen College, Oxford (BCL)
WebsiteSenate website

John Neely Kennedy (born November 21, 1951) is an American attorney and politician who has since 2017 served as the junior United States Senator from Louisiana. 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 in Oxford, England. Kennedy was a member of the staff of Governor Buddy Roemer before unsuccessfully running for state attorney general in 1991. In 1999, he was elected state treasurer. He was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate in 2004 and 2008, when he failed to unseat the then incumbent, Mary Landrieu. In 2007, while serving as treasurer, Kennedy switched parties from Democrat to Republican.

In 2016, Kennedy was once again a candidate for U.S. Senate. He came in first place in the November nonpartisan blanket primary and subsequently went on to defeat Democrat Foster Campbell in a December runoff before being sworn in on January 3, 2017.

On December 3, 2018, Kennedy announced that he would not run for governor in the nonpartisan blanket primary in 2019 against the incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards. For months earlier, he had been mentioned as a prospective gubernatorial candidate, but he said that he preferred to remain in the Senate.[1]


The Mississippi-born Kennedy was raised in Zachary, Louisiana 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.[2] In 1979, he earned a Bachelor of Civil Law degree with first class honours from Magdalen College, Oxford in England.[3][4]

He has also served as an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University's Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Baton Rouge.[5]

Political career[edit]

In 1988, Kennedy became special counsel to then-Democratic Governor Roemer.[6] 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.[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[edit]

Kennedy at the Natchitoches Christmas Parade in 2014

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).[9] Kennedy was re-elected Treasurer without opposition in 2003.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

U.S. Senate[edit]


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.[14] Vitter defeated John to win the seat in the general election.[15][16]

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.[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. 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."[27]

Kennedy publicly mulled running against John Bel Edwards for Governor in 2019 but ultimately decided against doing so.[28]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political positions[edit]

In 2018, Senator John Kennedy maintained a F 56% Liberty Score by Conservative Review.[29]

Animal rights[edit]

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.[30] He said, "officials would face significant fines" if noncompliant.[31]


Kennedy is "strongly opposed" to abortion.[32]

Gun law[edit]

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.[33][34]

Judicial nominees[edit]

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.[35]

Kennedy also voted against the nomination of Gregory Katsas to the D.C. Circuit, though the nomination was still confirmed. [36]

Net neutrality[edit]

John Kennedy introduced a bill on March 7, 2018, that would "prohibit companies like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or throttling web content."[37]. 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.

Personal life[edit]

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.[5] He is not related to the Kennedy family of Massachusetts.[38]

Electoral history[edit]

Results of the 2016 U.S. Senate nonpartisan blanket primary. Parishes won by Kennedy are shown in red.
Results of the Senate runoff. Parishes won by Kennedy are shown in red, darker shades indicate a higher percentage of the vote.
Louisiana Attorney General primary election, 1991
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Richard Ieyoub 447,423 31
Republican Ben Bagert 312,968 22
Democratic John Kennedy 288,104 20
Democratic Winston Riddick 224,200 16
Republican James McPherson 124,341 9
Republican Kai David Midboe 24,118 2
Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 1999
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Kennedy 621,796 56
Democratic Ken Duncan (inc.) 497,319 44
Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2003
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Kennedy (inc.) n/a 100
Louisiana U.S. Senate primary election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Vitter 943,014 51
Democratic Chris John 542,150 29
Democratic John Kennedy 275,821 15
Democratic Arthur Morrell 47,222 3
Libertarian Richard Fontanesi 15,097 1
Independent "Skip" Galan 12,463 1
Democratic Sam Houston Melton, Jr. 12,289 1
Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2007
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Kennedy (inc.) n/a 100
Louisiana U.S. Senate primary election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mary Landrieu (inc.) 988,298 52
Republican John Kennedy 867,177 46
Libertarian Richard Fontanesi 18,590 1
Independent "Jay" Patel 13,729 1
Independent Robert Stewart 8,780 0
Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Kennedy (inc.) n/a 100
Louisiana Treasurer primary election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Kennedy (inc.) 787,677 80
Republican Jennifer Treadaway 195,791 20
Louisiana U.S. Senate primary election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Kennedy 482,591 25
Democratic Foster Campbell 337,833 17
Republican Charles Boustany 298,008 15
Democratic Caroline Fayard 240,917 12
Republican John C. Fleming 204,026 11
Republican Rob Maness 90,856 5
Republican David Duke 58,606 3
Democratic Derrick Edwards 51,774 2
Democratic Gary Landrieu 45,587 1
Republican "Crawdaddy" Crawford 25,523 1
Republican Joseph Cao 21,019 1
Independent Beryl Billiot 19,352 1
Libertarian Thomas Clements 11,370 1
11 additional candidates 46,173 2
United States Senate election in Louisiana, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Kennedy 536,191 60
Democratic Foster Campbell 347,816 39


  1. ^ "Breaking: Kennedy won't run for governor". The Shreveport Times. December 3, 2018.
  2. ^ "The First Year Senator". University of Virginia School of Law. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Southeastern Louisiana University FACULTY SENATE Meeting Minutes" (PDF).
  4. ^ Biography of Treasurer John Neely Kennedy profile,; accessed November 18, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "About Treasurer Kennedy". Louisiana Department of the Treasury. Archived from the original on June 26, 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  6. ^ "Roemer is no-show for opening session", Minden Press-Herald, April 7, 1991, p. 1
  7. ^, TYLER BRIDGES. "Here's the secret to John N. Kennedy's U.S. Senate win".
  8. ^ Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, p. 247; ISBN 0-9700156-0-7
  9. ^ "Louisiana election returns for state treasurer". Louisiana Secretary of State. October 23, 1999. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  10. ^, WILL SENTELL. "Louisiana state treasurer John Kennedy hopes third time is charm in U.S. Senate bid".
  11. ^ Treasurer Bolts to GOP,; accessed November 18, 2016
  12. ^ Kennedy elaborated the plan in many venues across the state. See § III of the following: Ramsey, David (February 9, 2011). "Guest Presentation by State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy" (PDF). Southeastern Louisiana University Faculty Senate Minutes. Retrieved October 8, 2011. A particular focus of Kennedy's cost-saving ideas was reduction in the hiring of consultants.
  13. ^ "Michelle Milhollin, "Jindal slashes funding for state treasurer: Jindal's 'streamlining' efforts trim critics' funding"". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  14. ^ " - Vitter avoids runoff, first Louisiana Republican to Senate".
  15. ^ Moller, Jan. "Treasurer bolts to GOP". The Times Picayune. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  16. ^ "Official Election Results Results for Election Date: 11/2/2004". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  17. ^ "Louisiana election results". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  18. ^ Huetteman, Emmarie (February 17, 2017). "Today's Senator John Kennedy Is From Louisiana" – via
  19. ^ Rainey, Richard. "Treasurer John Kennedy enters Senate race to succeed David Vitter". The Time Picayune. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  20. ^ Richardson, Bradford. "Vitter announces Senate retirement after losing La. gubernatorial race". The Hill. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  21. ^ "U.S. Chamber of Commerce Endorses Kennedy for Senate". Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  22. ^ "Trump, Pence Endorse Louisiana GOP Senate Candidate John Kennedy Ahead of Runoff". December 3, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  23. ^ Press, Melinda Deslatte/ Associated. "Louisiana's Republican Senate U.S. candidates stick with Trump". Daily Comet. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  24. ^ "Donald Trump campaigns in Baton Rouge, this time for Senate candidate John Kennedy".
  25. ^ "Election Results by Parish - Official Results for Election Date: 12/10/2016 - U. S. Senator". Louisiana Secretary of State. December 10, 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  26. ^ Deborah Barfield Berry (June 6, 2017). "La. senator brings up mayonnaise during education hearing". USA Today. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  27. ^ "Meet The Folksiest Man In The U.S. Senate". January 25, 2018.
  28. ^ "Sen. John Kennedy announced he's not running for Louisiana Governor". WAFB. December 3, 2018. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
  29. ^ "Senator John Kennedy" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  30. ^ Anapol, Avery. "GOP senator opposed to gun control mocked for bill proposal after airline pet death". The Hill. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  31. ^ Connolly, Griffin. "After Dog Dies On United Airlines Flight Sen. John Kennedy Proposes Bill". Roll Call. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  32. ^ "Republican John Kennedy wins Louisiana senate race in runoff election". CNBC. 10 December 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  33. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  34. ^ "New NRA Ad Urges Voters to Elect John Kennedy for U.S. Senate". NRA-ILA. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  35. ^ ""The Daily 202: Why a Louisiana GOP senator keeps bringing down Trump judicial nominees"". Washington Post. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  36. ^ U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress - 1st Session United States Senate Vote Summary: Vote Number 282, United States Senate, November 27, 2017
  37. ^ Neidig, Harper. "GOP senator offers his own net neutrality bill". The Hill. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  38. ^ Mary Ann Akers (June 13, 2008). "The Sleuth - John Kennedy, a Politician By Any Other Name". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2016.

External links[edit]

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
John Schroder
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
David Vitter
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
Served alongside: Bill Cassidy
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Kamala Harris
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Catherine Cortez Masto