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Will Kathleen Sebelius Seek a Rare Political Trifecta?

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Sebelius could become the first woman to serve as governor, U.S. Senator, and cabinet head, and just the ninth individual to do so during the last 100+ years

kathleensebelius10.jpgNews spread quickly Wednesday when reports emerged that resigning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was contemplating a U.S. Senate run this cycle for the seat held by three-term Republican Pat Roberts in her home state of Kansas.

Sebelius would seemingly have long odds for such a campaign, despite governing the deep red state from 2003 until 2009 when she entered President Obama's cabinet.

As detailed in a Smart Politics report from a year ago, Kansas has the longest Democratic U.S. Senate drought in the nation at 82 years with George McGill the last Democrat to win a seat in the Sunflower State in 1932.

Add to that the recent high-profile drubbing Sebelius took during the rocky launch of the Affordable Care Act, and it is no wonder that some individuals close to Sebelius are skeptical she will launch such a campaign.

But while the odds may be long, the payout would be huge.

Not only would a Sebelius victory reverse a trend more than three-quarters of a century in the making, but she would accomplish a very rare feat in American politics.

A Smart Politics study finds that not only could Kathleen Sebelius become the first woman ever to serve as governor, cabinet head, and U.S. Senator, but she could become just the ninth person to serve in all three offices during the last 100+ years.

When then Governor Sebelius resigned to become Secretary of HHS in late April 2009 she became just the second woman in U.S. history to serve as governor and hold a cabinet post.

Arizona Democrat Janet Napolitano beat Sebelius to the punch when she became Secretary of Homeland Security some 97 days prior in January 2009.

Two additional women have served in the U.S. Senate and as cabinet secretaries: Elizabeth Dole (as Secretary of Transportation under Ronald Reagan and of Labor under George H.W. Bush) and Hillary Clinton (as Secretary of State under Obama).

Only one woman to date has served as governor and U.S. Senator: Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Overall, a total of 83 individuals have served as governor and as a cabinet head over the last 200+ years.

Of these 83 men and women, just 29 have also been elected or appointed to the nation's upper legislative chamber.

Of these 29 notables, 19 first served as governor among these three offices, while 10 first served in the U.S. Senate.

Political Office Sequence for Individuals Who Served as Governor, U.S. Senator, and Cabinet Head

Position
1st
2nd
3rd
Governor
19
6
4
U.S. Senator
10
11
8
Cabinet Head
0
12
17
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Individuals who have served as governor, U.S. Senator, and cabinet head include:

· President James Monroe of Virginia: Monroe concurrently served as both Secretary of State (1811-1817) and War (1814-1815) for a period under James Madison
· President Martin Van Buren of New York: Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson
· William Seward of New York: Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson
· Salmon Chase of Ohio: Treasury Secretary under Lincoln and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court for eight years
· James Byrnes of South Carolina: Secretary of State under Harry Truman after briefly serving as an Associate Supreme Court Justice

Only eight of these 29 individuals, however, have held all three positions during the last century.

Two are currently serving in the U.S. Senate - Republicans Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and the retiring Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

Both followed what would be the Sebelius pathway.

Alexander first served as governor (1979-1987), then Secretary of Education (1991-1993), then U.S. Senator (2003-present).

Johanns also first served as governor (1999-2005), then Secretary of Agriculture (2005-2007), then U.S. Senator (2009-present).

In addition to James Byrnes mentioned above, the remaining political figures to serve in all three political offices since the turn of the 20th Century are:

· Democrat Claude Swanson of Virginia: Naval Secretary for Franklin Roosevelt
· Democrat J. Howard McGrath of Rhode Island: Attorney General under Harry Truman
· Democrat Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut: Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare under John Kennedy
· Republican John Ashcroft of Missouri: Attorney General under George W. Bush
· Republican Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho: Interior Secretary under George W. Bush

Each of the last five individuals to accomplish this trifecta - Ribicoff, Alexander, Ashcroft, Johanns, and Kempthorne - all served more than one term as governor, just like Sebelius.

With her five years as Secretary of HHS, Sebelius has recorded a longer tenure as cabinet head than all but five of the 29 individuals who have served in each of these three political offices:

· James Monroe served nearly six years as Secretary of State (1811-1817)
· Samuel Southard served five and one-half years as Naval Secretary (1823-1829)
· William Marcy served four years as Secretary of War (1845-1849) and four years as Secretary of State (1853-1857)
· William Seward served eight years as Secretary of State (1861-1869)
· Claude Swanson served more than six years as Naval Secretary (1933-1939)

Kansas has a filing deadline for major party candidates of June 2nd.

Senator Roberts is being challenged to the right by Milton Wolf in the Republican primary.

29 Politicians to Serve as Governor, U.S. Senator, and Cabinet Head

Name
State
Governor
US Senate
Cabinet
James Monroe
VA
1799-1802; 1811-1811
1790-1794
1811-1817 (State); 1814-1815 (War)
James Barbour
VA
1812-1814
1815-1825
1825-1828 (War)
Mahlon Dickerson
NJ
1815-1817
1817-1829; 1829-1833
1834-1838 (Navy)
John Branch
NC
1817-1820
1823-1825; 1825-1829
1829-1831 (Navy)
Martin Van Buren
NY
1829-1829
1821-1828
1829-1831 (State)
Samuel Southard
NJ
1832-1833
1821-1823; 1833-1842
1823-1829 (Navy)
William Marcy
NY
1833-1839
1831-1833
1845-1849 (War); 1853-1857 (State)
Edward Everett
MA
1836-1840
1853-1854
1852-1853 (State)
William Seward
NY
1839-1843
1849-1861
1861-1869 (State)
Thomas Corwin
OH
1840-1842
1845-1850
1850-1853 (Treasury)
William Graham
NC
1845-1849
1840-1843
1850-1852 (Navy)
Isaac Toucey
CT
1846-1847
1852-1857
1848-1849 (Attorney General)
John Crittenden
KY
1848-1850
1817-1819; 1835-1841; 1842-1848; 1855-1861
1841-1841; 1850-1853 (Attorney General)
George Boutwell
MA
1851-1853
1873-1877
1869-1873 (Treasury)
Salmon Chase
OH
1856-1860
1849-1855; 1861-1861
1861-1864 (Treasury)
Lot Myrick Morrill
ME
1858-1861
1861-1869; 1869-1876
1876-1877 (Treasury)
Alexander Ramsey
MN
1860-1863
1863-1875
1879-1881 (War)
Samuel Kirkwood
IA
1860-1864; 1876-1877
1866-1867; 1877-1881
1881-1882 (Interior)
John Dix
NY
1872-1874
1845-1849
1861-1861 (Treasury)
Redfield Proctor
VT
1878-1880
1891-1908
1889-1891 (War)
Russell Alger
MI
1885-1887
1902-1907
1897-1899 (War)
Claude Swanson
VA
1906-1910
1910-1933
1933-1939 (Navy)
J. Howard McGrath
RI
1941-1945
1947-1949
1949-1952 (Attorney General)
James Byrnes
SC
1951-1955
1931-1941
1945-1947 (State)
Abraham Ribicoff
CT
1955-1961
1963-1981
1961-1962 (Health Education & Welfare)
Lamar Alexander
TN
1979-1987
2003-
1991-1993 (Education)
John Ashcroft
MO
1985-1993
1995-2001
2001-2005 (Attorney General)
Mike Johanns
NE
1999-2005
2009-
2005-2007 (Agriculture)
Dirk Kempthorne
ID
1999-2006
1993-1999
2006-2009 (Interior)
Table compiled by Smart Politics with data culled from the National Governors Association.

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