For the First Time Ever, We'll Have Two Black Senators Serving at the Same Time

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 30 2013 10:04 AM

For the First Time Ever, We'll Have Two Black Senators Serving at the Same Time

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint Mo Cowan to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. When the news broke, all of self-involved Washington asked the same thing: "Is it quicker to Google 'Mo Cowan' on my phone or on my laptop?"

It's quicker on the phone. Cowan, an attorney, was Gov. Patrick's chief of staff for most of his current, second term. Like Patrick, he's African-American. Thus, for the first time ever, the Senate will include more than one black member at the same time — Cowan and South Carolina's Tim Scott. I'd thought that the Reconstruction era produced multiple black senators, and it did, but they served a few years apart. And since senators were appointed by legislatures until 1914, that means only three of the eight black senators were elected by voters.

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That could change. Scott's a pretty sound bet for re-election in 2014, and Cory Booker keeps ignoring the shade thrown his way and running for Senate against Frank Lautenberg. But for now, we have made history, sort of — Cowan is the first black senator appointed by a black governor.

David Weigel is a former Slate political reporter. 

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