Legislative Director and Special Assistant to the Executive DirectorNational Association of Attorneys General
What does Kamala Harris have in common with Aaron Burr and Martin Van Buren? All three served as state attorney general before becoming U.S. Senator and then Vice President of the United States. In fact, this is the same path to the Vice Presidency that 10% of all Vice Presidents have followed since Aaron Burr’s inauguration in 1801 to serve as Thomas Jefferson’s Vice President.
Two hundred years, give or take six weeks, since Burr, the 2nd Attorney General of New York, became Vice President, Harris, the 32nd Attorney General of California, will take the same oath of office. Martin Van Buren, the 14th Attorney General of New York, George Dallas, the 17th Attorney General of Pennsylvania, and Walter Mondale, the 23rd Attorney General of Minnesota, all also served as attorney general before being elected to the U.S. Senate and eventually being elevated to the Vice President post.
Interestingly, there is another connection between the offices of Vice President and state attorney general that received a lot of attention during the 2020 Presidential campaign: parental lineage. Former National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) President and Minnesota Attorney General Hubert “Skip” Humphrey, III graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1969, just a few months after his father, Hubert Humphrey Jr., completed his single term as President Johnson’s Vice President. More recently, the late Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden served two terms, which largely overlapped with his father, Joe Biden’s, tenure as Vice President. President-Elect Biden spoke often of his relationship with his son during the 2020 Presidential Campaign. In fact, it was Attorney General Biden that first introduced the future running mates to each other during a NAAG meeting.
It is a well-known joke that AG stands not just for attorney general but also for aspiring governor. With seven former attorneys general residing in Governor’s mansions around the country at the start of 2021, the idea of former attorneys general continuing to serve in higher office is not new or farfetched. Will there be more former attorneys general eventually residing in the Naval Observatory? The historical odds look pretty good.