Revolving branches, from the Cabinet to the Senate


President Obama speaks to media at the start of a Cabinet meeting on March 4, 2013, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sit beside him. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ AP)

If Kathleen Sebelius makes a run for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, as the New York Times wrote Wednesday that she is considering, the outgoing health and human services secretary would join a surprisingly long list of branch-crosssers who went from an appointed Cabinet position to an elected Senate seat, including two in office today.

With an assist from the Senate historian’s office, we picked 10 from the dozens of politicians Sebelius would join if she runs and wins a Senate seat (which, according to one public poll, would be quite a challenge).

1. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

Alexander has been in the Senate since 2003, but a decade earlier he served as education secretary under President George H.W.Bush. He is currently the ranking Republican on the Senate committee that oversees education policy.

2. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)

Johanns joined the Senate in 2009 after serving as President George W. Bush’s agriculture secretary from 2005 to 2007. He is not seeking reelection this year.

3. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.)

Before becoming a senator in 2005, Martinez served as housing and urban development secretary in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet in the first three years of Bush’s presidency. He resigned from the Senate before the end of his first term.

4. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C)

Dole was President Ronald Reagan’s transportation secretary from 1983 to 1987 and then President George H. W. Bush’s labor secretary from 1989 to 1990. More than a decade later, Dole ran for the Senate and served one term before losing her seat in the 2008 election.

5. Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.)

Adams was President Jimmy Carter’s transportation secretary from 1977 to 1979, did a short stint as a D.C.-based lobbyist and then served one term in the Senate in 1987. He did not seek reelection after several women came forward and accused him of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to rape.

6. Sen. Clinton Anderson (D-N.M.)

Anderson served as President Harry Truman’s agriculture secretary from 1945 to 1948 and then immediately went to the Senate, a seat he held for more than two decades.

7. Sen. Carter Glass (D-Va.)

Glass was President Woodrow Wilson’s treasury secretary for two years before his election to the Senate. Glass was in the Senate for 26 years and most notably is the namesake for the Glass-Steagall Act.

8. Sen. William McAdoo (D-Calif.)

McAdoo preceded Glass as Wilson’s treasury secretary and then, more than a decade later, followed his lead by getting elected to the Senate, where he served from 1933 to 1938.

9. Sen. Lewis Cass (D-Mich.)

Between stints as secretary of war under President Andrew Jackson and secretary of state under President James Buchanan, Cass served in the Senate from 1845 to 1857. (He took a brief break to run for president in 1848.)

10. Sen. Timothy Pickering (Federalist Party-Mass.)

Pickering served in the Cabinets of both President George Washington and President John Adams, most famously as their secretary of state from 1795 to 1800. Pickering became a senator in 1803 as a member of the Federalist Party. In a twist, he lost that seat after one term, and then ran for the U.S House, a seat he held from 1812 to 1817.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.

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Colby Itkowitz · April 16, 2014