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Congressional legacies

Love, marriage and politics on Capitol Hill

By Laurie Bennett

September 2, 2009 at 8:22am

Who better to understand the emotional needs of a congressman than a congresswoman? Or vice versa.

Over the years, there have been 10 couples in which husband and wife were members of the House or Senate.

The current Congress includes two: Mary Bono Mack of California and Connie Mack IV of Florida; and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota and Max Sandlin of Texas. Sen. Olympia Snowe is married to John R. McKernan Jr., former congressman and governor of Maine.

Ruth H. McCormick
Ruth H. McCormick

The indomitable Ruth Hanna McCormick started it all. McCormick, the daughter of Sen. Mark Hanna of Ohio, married Joseph Medill McCormick of the Chicago Tribune McCormicks.

While her husband published the newspaper, she lobbied for women’s suffrage. Joseph McCormick was elected to the House and then the Senate. He committed suicide in 1925, after failing to be renominated.

Three years later, Ruth McCormick was elected to the House, telling The New York Times:

I haven’t gone into this as a woman. I am a politician. I have been a political worker for more years than most of the men in the party today.

She lost a bid for the Senate, in part because of public outrage over the amount of money she spent on her campaign - $252,000, which was 10 times more than her opponent, but would barely cover a cheese-and-crackers reception today.

McCormick extended her political credentials in 1932 when she married another congressman, Albert G. Simms of New Mexico.

So began the trend. Other former congressional couples:

  • Rep. Emily Taft Douglas and Sen. Paul H. Douglas of Illinois
  • Rep. Martha E. Keys of Kansas, who divorced her husband Sam Keys and married Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr. of Indiana
  • Sens. Nancy Kassebaum Baker of Kansas and Howard Baker Jr. of Tennessee
  • Reps. Susan Molinari and Bill Paxon of New York
  • Sens. Elizabeth and Bob Dole, whose shared experience also includes failed presidential campaigns
  • Reps. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky of Pennsylvania and Edward M. Mezvinsky of Iowa. Their son, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, is dating Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the former president and secretary of state.

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