Vice Presidential Experience

Below, I’ve put together a rough list of the political experience that each of America’s 46 Vice Presidents had before they took America’s second-highest office  (Note: if an individual had two political roles at one time, that time is only counted once):

John Adams: Continental Congress (1774-1778), Committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776), Massachusetts General Court (1770-1777), Two-time Ambassador to Europe (1777 and 1779), Total years in political office before becoming VP: 9

Thomas Jefferson: House of Burgesses (1769-1770), Continental Congress (1775-1781), Committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776), Virginia House of Delegates (1776-1779), Governor of Virginia (1779-1781), Minister to France (1785-1789), Secretary of State (1789-1793). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 24

Aaron Burr: New York State Assembly (1784-1785 and 1798-1801), New York State Attorney General (1789-1792), United States Senate (1792-1798). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 13

George Clinton: County Clerk–Ulster County, New York (1759 through Vice Presidency), Governor of New York (1777-1795 and 1801-1804), New York State Assembly (1800-1801).  Total years in political office before becoming VP: 45

Elbridge Gerry: Continental Congress (1776-1780 and 1783-1785), United States House of Representatives (1789-1793), Governor of Massachusetts (1810-1812). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 11

Daniel Tompkins: Delegate, New York State Constitutional Convention (1801), New York State Assembly (1803), Supreme Court of New York (1804-1807), Governor of New York (1807-1817). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 15

John Calhoun: U.S. House of Representatives (1810-1817), Secretary of War (1817-1825). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 15

Martin Van Buren: New York State Attorney General (1815-1819), United States Senate (1821-1828), Governor of New York (1829), Secretary of State (1829-1831). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 14

Richard Johnson: Kentucky House of Representatives (1804-1806), U.S. House of Representatives (1807-1819 and 1829-1833), U.S. Senate (1819-1829). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 29

John Tyler: U.S. House (1816-1821), Virginia House of Delegates (1823-1825), Governor of Virginia (1825-1827), Delegate, Virginia Constitutional Convention (1829-1830), U.S. Senate (1827-1836). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 19

George Dallas: Mayor of Philadelphia (1828-1829), U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1829-1831), U.S. Senate (1831-1833), Attorney General of Pennsylvania (1833-1835), Envoy to Russia (1837-1839). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 9

Millard Fillmore: New York State Assembly (1829-1831), United States House of Representatives (1833-1835 and 1837-1843), New York State Comptroller (1848-1849). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 11

William King: U.S. Senate (1819-1844 and 1848-1852),  Minister to France (1844-1846). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 31

John Breckinridge: Kentucky House of Representatives (1848-1851), U.S. House of Representatives (1851-1855). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 7

Hannibal Hamlin: Maine House of Representatives (1836-1841), U.S. House of Representatives (1843-1847), U.S. Senate (1848-1861). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 22

Andrew Johnson: Tennessee Alderman (1829-1833), Mayor of Greenville, Tennessee (1833-1835), Tennessee House of Representatives (1835-1837), Tennessee Senate (1839-1843), U.S. House of Representatives (1843-1853), Governor of Tennessee (1853-1857), U.S. Senate (1857-1862), Military Governor of Tennessee (1862-1865). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 34

Schuyler Colfax: Indiana Constitutional Convention (1849-1850), U.S. House of Representatives (1855-1869; served as Speaker of the House 1863-1869). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 15

Henry WIlson: Massachusetts State Legislature (1841-1852), Delegate, Massachusetts Constitutional Convention (1853), U.S. Senate (1855-1873). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 30

William Wheeler: District Attorney–Franklin County, New York (1846-1849), New York State Assembly (1850-1851), New York State Senate (1858-1860), U.S. House of Representatives (1861-1863 and 1869-1877), Delegate, New York Constitutional Convention (1867 and 1868). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 17

Chester A. Arthur: New York State Quartermaster General (1861-1862), Collector of the Port of New York (1871-1878). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 8

Thomas Hendricks: Indiana House of Representatives (1848-1850), Delegate, Indiana Constitutional Convention (1851), U.S. House of Representatives (1851-1855), Commissioner, General Land Office (1855-1859), U.S. Senate (1863-1869), Governor of Indiana (1873-1877). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 21

Levi Morton: U.S. House of Representatives (1879-1881), Minister to France (1881-1885). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 6

Adlai Stevenson I: District Attorney (1864-1868), U.S. House of Representatives (1875-1877 and 1879-1881). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 8

Garret Hobart: City Council –Paterson, New Jersey (1871), New Jersey General Assembly (1872-1876), New Jersey Senate (1876-1882), Chairman of the New Jersey Republican Senate Committee (1880-1891), Member of the Republican National Committee from New Jersey (1884-1896). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 25

Theodore Roosevelt: United States Civil Service Commission (1888-1895), New York City Police Commissioner (1895-1897), Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1897-1898), Governor of New York (1898-1901). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 13

Charles Fairbanks: United States Senate (1897-1905). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 8

James Sherman: U.S. House of Representatives (1887-1891 and 1893-1909). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 20

Thomas Riley Marshall: Governor of Indiana (1909-1913). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 4

Calvin Coolidge: City Council–Northhampton, Massachusetts (1898-1899), City Solicitor– Northhampton, Massachusetts (1900-1901), Clerk of Courts–Northhampton, Massachusetts (1903), Massachusetts State House of Representatives (1907-1909), Mayor of Northhampton, Massachusetts (1910-1911), Massachusetts State Senate (1912-1916), Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts (1916-1919), Governor of Massachusetts (1919-1921). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 15

Charles Dawes: Comptroller of the Currency (1898-1901), Director, Bureau of the Budget (1921-1925). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 6

Charles Curtis: U.S. House of Representatives (1893-1907), U.S. Senate (1907-1913 and 1915-1929). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 34

John Nance Garner: Texas House of Representatives (1898-1902), U.S. House of Representatives (1903-1933; served as Speaker of the House 1931-1933). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 35

Henry Wallace: Secretary of Agriculture (1933-1941). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 8

Harry Truman: Court of the Eastern District of Jackson County–Missouri (1923-1925 and 1927-1933), U.S. Senate (1935 -1945). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 18

Alben Barkley: Prosecuting Attorney–McCracken County, Kentucky (1905-1909), County Court–McCracken County, Kentucky (1909-1913), U.S. House of Representatives (1913-1927), U.S. Senate (1927-1949). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 44

Richard Nixon: U.S. House of Representatives (1947-1950), U.S Senate (1950-1953). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 6

Lyndon Johnson: U.S. House of Representatives (1937-1949), U.S. Senate (1949-1961). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 24

Hubert Humphrey: Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1945-1949), U.S. Senate (1949-1964). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 19

Spiro Agnew: Board of Zoning Appeals–Baltimore County, Maryland (1957-1962), Executive–Baltimore County, Maryland (1962-1966), Governor of Maryland (1966-1969). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 12

Gerald Ford: U.S. House of Representatives (1949-1973). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 24

Nelson Rockefeller: Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (1940-1944), Inter-American Development Commission and Corporation (1940-1947), Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs (1944-1945), Special Assistant to President Eisenhower for Foreign Affairs (1954-1955), Governor of New York (1959-1973).  Total years in political office before becoming VP: 21

Walter Mondale: Minnesota Attorney General (1960-1964), President’s Consumer Advisory Council (1960-1964), U.S. Senate (1964-1976). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 16

George H. W. Bush: Chairman, Harris County Republican Party–Harris County, Texas (1964), U.S. House of Representatives (1967-1971), Ambassador to the United Nations (1971-1973), Chairman of the RNC (1973-1974), Chief of the U.S. Liaison’s Office in the People’s Republic of China (1974-1975), Director of the CIA (1976-1977). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 11

Dan Quayle: U.S. House of Representatives (1977-1981), U.S. Senate (1981-1989). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 12

Al Gore: United States House of Representatives (1976-1984), U.S. Senate (1984-1993). Total years in political office before becoming VP: 17

Dick Cheney: Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (1969-1970), White House Staff Assistant (1971), Assistant Director of the Cost of Living Council (1971–73), Deputy Assistant to the President (1974–1975), White House Chief of Staff (1975-1977), U.S. House of Representatives (1979-1989), Secretary of Defense (1989-1993), Total years in political office before becoming VP: 22

There have been 46 Vice Presidents in America’s history. The average Vice President has had 17.9 years of political experience before taking office.  Since 1900, that average has dipped a bit to 17.6 years.

Now, let’s look at this year’s VP candidates:

Sarah Palin: City Council–Wasilla, Alaska (1992-1996), Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (1996-2002), Governor of Alaska (2006-2009). Total years in political office before (potentially) becoming VP: 13

Historically, Palin’s experience is toward the low end–out of 46 Vice Presidents, there have been 30 as or more experienced than Sarah Palin; only 16 have been less experienced than her.

Joe Biden: County Council–New Castle County, Delaware (1970-1972), U.S. Senate (1973-2009). Total years in political office before (potentially) becoming VP: 39

Historically, Joe Biden’s experience is very high–out of 46 Vice Presidents, there have been only 2 as or more experienced than Joe Biden; 44 have been less experienced than him.

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