Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Senate Successors

At least one report on the recent U.S. Senate primary in Massachusetts for the special election that will choose the late Ted Kennedy's successor, noted the big names who had held that Senate seat in the past. Not only the Kennedy brothers, John and Edward, but also Daniel Webster and John Quincy Adams. That reminded me of a topic I've had in the back of my mind for some time: who are the current successors to some of the famous senators from history?

House districts appear, disappear, and change shape, after each census. But, for example, the Class I seat and the Class III seat from Pennsylvania have existed in the same form since the First Congress. So there is a clear line of succession throughout history.

Pure trivia, I suppose. But every once in a while, senators indicate that it's something they think about. Perhaps it feeds their oversized egos. But it might be embarrassing, in some cases.

Here are the 16 presidents who served in the Senate, and the current holders of their Senate seats:

James Monroe/Jim Webb

John Quincy Adams/Paul Kirk

Andrew Jackson held both Tennessee seats for different periods, so he can be considered predecessor to both Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Martin Van Buren/Kirsten Gillibrand

William Henry Harrison/George Voinovich

John Tyler/Jim Webb

Franklin Pierce/Judd Gregg

James Buchanan/Arlen Specter

Andrew Johnson/Bob Corker

Benjamin Harrison/Richard Lugar

Warren Harding/George Voinovich

Harry Truman/Claire McCaskill

John Kennedy/Paul Kirk

Lyndon Johnson/John Cornyn

Richard Nixon/Barbara Boxer

Barack Obama/Roland Burris

By far the oddest of couples in that list is the pairing of Nixon and Boxer. Nixon won his only Senate election in 1950, running against a left-wing woman whom he labeled the "Pink Lady". Boxer was first elected to the Senate in 1992, about a year and a half before Nixon died. I'm not sure to what degree he took note of her election, and that it was his old Senate seat. If so, perhaps he would have considered her at least pink, if not downright crimson. (That's in the old sense, when the left was considered red, before, for some strange reason, people began to call Republicans red.)

John Cornyn could probably have found common cause with some of the old-time Texas Democrats. But he would not fit too easily with Lyndon Johnson, who came out of a more populist strain of Texas politicians.

James Buchanan and Arlen Specter are two of the most prominent political names in my home state of Pennsylvania. But I'm not sure what either one would have thought of the pluses and minuses of the other.

And President Obama was clearly embarrassed about the circumstances under which Roland Burris became his successor.

Otherwise, for the most part, it seems as though predecessors might have approved of successors.

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