With the election in Louisiana on Saturday of John Kennedy to replace David Vitter in the Senate, one of the most hotly contested match-ups in U.S. history once again drew to a near-tie.
That contest? The total number of people elected to the Senate with the surname "Kennedy" vs. the total number elected who were black.
As it stands, because of Kennedy's Louisiana win and the election in California of Kamala Harris, the tally stands at six to five, with black Americans holding a slight lead.
Elected senators named Kennedy
- Anthony Kennedy. Know-Nothing senator from Maryland, 1857-1863.
- John F. Kennedy. Democratic senator from Massachusetts, 1953-1960.
- Edward M. Kennedy. Democratic senator from Massachusetts, 1962-2009.
- Robert Kennedy. Democratic senator from New York, 1965-1968.
- John Kennedy. Republican senator from Louisiana, 2017-.
Elected senators who are black
- Edward Brooke. Republican senator from Massachusetts, 1967-1979.
- Carol Moseley Braun. Democratic senator from Illinois, 1993-1999.
- Barack Obama. Democratic senator from Illinois, 2005-2008.
- Tim Scott. Republican senator from South Carolina, 2013-.
- Cory Booker. Democratic senator from New Jersey, 2013-.
- Kamala Harris. Democratic senator from California, 2017-.
There have been several other members of the Senate who were black, all of whom were appointed to their positions. (Scott was originally appointed to replace Jim DeMint, but won election in 2014.) Had Harris not won in California, the contest would be tied.
Notice that until this decade, the tally was four to three for the Kennedys. Three of the Kennedys came from the same family, of course, but that's still a rather striking disparity. After all, about 13 percent of the U.S. population is African American. The percentage of the population that is named Kennedy is somewhat smaller. In 2000, it was the 130th-most-common surname according to the Census Bureau, with 171,636 people sharing that name. The same year, 36.4 million black people were in the United States. One might think that something like 212 black people had been elected to the Senate for every Kennedy, given those numbers, but that's not quite the case.
We'll keep an eye on this hard-fought contest and update you with new developments as needed.