John Neely Kennedy

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John Neely Kennedy
Treasurer of Louisiana
Assumed office
January 10, 2000
Governor Mike Foster
Kathleen Blanco
Bobby Jindal
John Bel Edwards (Elect)
Preceded by Ken Duncan
Personal details
Born John Neely Kennedy
(1951-11-21) November 21, 1951 (age 64)
Centreville, Mississippi, U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 2007)
Republican (2007–present)
Spouse(s) Rebecca Stulb
Children Preston
Alma mater Vanderbilt University
University of Virginia
University of Oxford
Religion United Methodism

John Neely Kennedy (born November 21, 1951) is the Republican state treasurer of the U.S. state of Louisiana. He was re-elected to his fifth term as State Treasurer on October 24, 2015.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Though born in Centreville, Mississippi, Kennedy was reared in Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish near the capital city of Baton Rouge. He graduated in 1969 from Zachary High School. He finished magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Political Science, Philosophy and Economics in 1973. At Vanderbilt, he was elected president of his senior class and was also elected to the Phi Beta Kappa society. After Vanderbilt, Kennedy received a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1977. He also earned a Bachelor of Civil Law degree from Oxford University in England as a Rhodes scholar, graduating with a first class honours degree in 1979.[2][3]

Prior to entering politics, Kennedy practiced law at the New Orleans and Baton Rouge Chaffe McCall law firm. Before becoming the state treasurer, Kennedy was the secretary of the Department of Revenue and was a legal counselor and secretary for Governor Buddy Roemer. Currently, along with being state treasurer, Kennedy is a substitute teacher in East Baton Rouge Parish. He is also an adjunct professor at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Baton Rouge.[4]

Political career[edit]

In 1988, Kennedy became special counsel to Governor Buddy Roemer.[5] 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 to succeed the retiring William J. Guste. Democrat Richard Ieyoub of Lake Charles won the position. 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.[6]

Kennedy left the Foster administration when he was elected State Treasurer in 1999, having unseated the incumbent Democrat Kenneth "Ken" Duncan, 621,796 (55.6 percent) to 497,319 (44.4 percent).[7] Kennedy was reelected as treasurer without opposition in 2003.

In 2004 he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. He ran a distant third in Louisiana's unique nonpartisan blanket primary, losing to the outright winner, Republican U.S. Representative David Vitter who polled more votes than Kennedy (15 percent), State Senator Arthur Morrell (3 percent), and Democratic U.S. Representative Christopher John (29 percent) combined to win in the primary for the seat without a formal general election, popularly called the runoff in Louisiana.

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.[8]

In 2008 Kennedy ran again for the United States Senate, this time as a Republican, against incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu. He lost 52.1 to 45.7 percent.[9]

During the term to which he was elected in 2007, Kennedy devised twenty-four points by which the State of Louisiana could save money.[10]

Kennedy was elected as a Republican to the state treasurer's office at the same time that Bobby Jindal won the governor's race against two Democrats, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and then State Senator Walter Boasso. In the following years, Kennedy spoke out against Jindal's practice of using one-time funds as part of the annual operating budget. In June 2012, Jindal used the line item veto to reduce the state treasurer's office budget by $511,279. Jindal said that Kennedy can "streamline" his own department. Many ideas that Kennedy had suggested were originally proposals that came from the Louisiana Commission for Streamlining Government, on which the treasurer was a member.[11]

Edmonson Act[edit]

In July 2014, Kennedy and government watchdog C. B. Forgotston, a lawyer from Hammond questioned an amendment approved on July 2, the last day of the state legislative session, by State Senator Neil Riser of Columbia in Caldwell Parish in northeastern Louisiana. Riser pushed to passage a bill which could increase by $55,000 annually the retirement pay of Colonel Mike Edmonson, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police and a Republican appointee of Governor Jindal, and, inadvertently, at least one other unnamed state trooper. Legislative rules prohibit a conference committee report from being considered on the last day of a session. However, both chambers voted by the two-thirds majority to suspend the rules and pass Riser's amendment. Treasurer Kennedy has urged the state police retirement board, of which he is an ex officio member, to litigate the constitutionality of Senate Bill 294, which Jindal promptly signed into law.[12]

Though he had first denied authorship of the amendment, Riser said that he was asked to submit the measure to the full legislature by Charles Dupuy, the deputy police superintendent. Riser said it was his understanding that the bill in question addresses the rights of law enforcement officers and "broad retirement issues", not specific individuals who could benefit from its provisions.[12]

Meanwhile, Forgotston took a particular interest in the retirement controversy; the story was broken by the Ruston journalist Tom Aswell. Forgotston claims that Riser's amendment, labeled in the media as the "Edmonson Act", would have applied to "hundreds of thousands" of current and future retirees in all departments of state government and would have increased taxpayer liability by "millions of dollars" in accrued expenses. Forgotston said that Riser flatly lied to him in first denying the authorship of the amendment: "Riser has now said, ‘Yeah, it was me [sic] ...' He should have apologized to the public. He should have apologized to the other five members of the conference committee. He threw them under the bus. He definitely owes an apology to his staff member - he threw her under the bus."[13][14]

On September 16, 2014, Forgotston, Aswell, and Kennedy were vindicated when a state court judge in Baton Rouge declared the "Edmonson Act" unconstitutional. The suit challenging the law was brought forward by State Senator Dan Claitor, a Republican candidate for Louisiana's 6th congressional district seat in the November 4 primary election.[15]

Campaigns for U. S. Senate[edit]

In 2004, Kennedy campaigned for the United States Senate seat held by John Breaux. Breaux was retiring and Kennedy ran as a Democrat in the Louisiana jungle primary but lost to Republican David Vitter and Democrat Chris John. Vitter would later go on to win the seat in the general election.[16][17]

In 2008, Kennedy again ran for the United States Senate, this time as a Republican. He lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu.[18]

Reelection in 2015[edit]

In 2015, Kennedy was a runaway winner in his bid for reelection as state treasurer. He polled 787,128 votes (80.1 percent) to fellow Republican Jennifer Treadway's 195,595 (19.9 percent). He outpolled all other statewide candidates for all offices on the primary ballot.[19]


Personal life[edit]

Kennedy resides in Madisonville in St. Tammany Parish 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.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Republican John Kennedy re-elected to fifth term as Louisiana’s state treasurer
  2. ^ Southeastern Louisiana University FACULTY SENATE Meeting Minutes
  3. ^ Biography of Treasurer John Neely Kennedy
  4. ^ a b "About Treasurer Kennedy". Louisiana Department of the Treasury. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Roemer is no-show for opening session", Minden Press-Herald, April 7, 1991, p. 1
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "Louisiana election returns for state treasurer, October 23, 1999". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  8. ^ Treasurer Bolts to GOP
  9. ^ "Louisiana election results, Date: 11/4/2008". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  10. ^ Kennedy elaborated the plan in many venues across the state. See § III of the following: Ramsey, David (2011-02-09). "Guest Presentation by State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy" (PDF). Southeastern Louisiana University Faculty Senate Minutes. Retrieved 2011-10-08.  A particular focus of Kennedy's cost-saving ideas was reduction in the hiring of consultants.
  11. ^ "Michelle Milhollin, "Jindal slashes funding for state treasurer: Jindal’s 'streamlining' efforts trim critics' funding"". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved June 16, 2012. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b Barbara Leader (July 30, 2014). "John Kennedy, board to discuss retirement benefits law". Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  13. ^ Lee Zurik (July 28, 2014). "Lee Zurik Investigation: Riser's amendment could cost state millions". Fox 8 Live. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  14. ^ The Moon Griffon Show, August 1, 2014
  15. ^ Cole Avery (September 16, 2014). "'Edmonson Act' declared unconstitutional in state court". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 17, 2014. 
  16. ^ Moller, Jan. "Treasurer bolts to GOP". The Times Picayune. Archived from the original on 27 April 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  17. ^ "Official Election Results Results for Election Date: 11/2/2004". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "Official Election Results Results for Election Date: 11/4/2008". Louisiana Secretary of State. 
  19. ^ "Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 25, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ken Duncan
Treasurer of Louisiana
Most recent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Suzanne Terrell
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator for Louisiana
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Bill Cassidy