It didn’t take long for the suggestion to surface that Ted Kennedy’s widow – Victoria Reggie Kennedy – would be a suitable replacement for her husband in the United States Senate. There is a long and rich tradition of just that kind of political move.
Among the more celebrated examples of “wife replaces husband in the Senate” were Hattie Caraway of Arkansas (widow of Senator Thaddeus) and Rose McConnell Long of Louisiana (widow of the assassinated Kingfish – Huey Long).
Hattie Caraway went on to become the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in 1932. Huey Long brought his campaign smarts north to Arkansas and barnstormed the state with the diminutive Senator Caraway to help her secure a full term in the Senate. Their rollicking, nine-day tour of Arkansas spawned a good little political book by David Malone called Hattie and Huey: An Arkansas Tour.
Huey Long’s widow replaced him in 1936, and then Rose Long won her own special election and served until 1938 when she did not seek re-election.
Senator Caraway won re-election again in 1938, but lost the Democratic primary in 1944 to the young J. William Fulbright who, of course, went on to fame as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he became outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Muriel Humphrey served less than a year in 1978 after the death of Minnesota Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Maryon Allen of Alabama also served for a few months in 1978 after her husband Senator James B. Allen died. Vera Bushfield (now there’s a household name) replaced her South Dakota Senator husband Harlan following his death in 1948 and Joceyln Burdick served a few months in 1992 after the death of her husband, long-time North Dakota Senator Quentin Burdick.
My favorite Senate wife who became a Senator is Oregon’s impressive Maurine Neuberger. She was elected in a special election in 1960 to replace her husband, Richard Neuberger, who had died. Senator Neuberger also won election to her own term and served until 1967.
Most speculation has Mrs. Kennedy passing on any chance to replace her famous husband, but if it were to come to pass she would be in some good and interesting historical company.
Tomorrow: Two Governors actually appointed their wives to fill Senate vacancies. Talk about keeping it all in the family.