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Behind Every Great Senator Is a …Senate Spouse

Sue Miller’s novel, The Senator’s Wife, gave theWashington Post an inspiration: It asked a wife of a US senator to review it—Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and wife of Ohio senator Sherrod Brown. With Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, Senate spouses are as much in the news today as the senators themselves.

Among the Club of 100, a handful are single, such as Susan Collins, Maria Cantwell, and Lindsey Graham; Russ Feingold is twice divorced. Among the married, there are some noteworthy spouses.

Art is a passion—both Wanda Baucus, wife of Montana’s Max Baucus, and Kentucky’s Jim Bunning’s wife, Mary, are painters. Minnesota senator Norm Coleman’s wife, Laurie, is probably the only Senate spouse with a bona fide entertainment listing— includes her acting roles in TV movies and series. She also had a star role in a Twin Cities production of The Vagina Monologues, which she admits raised some eyebrows.

Nancy Bass, wife of Wyoming’s Ron Wyden, co-owns the Strand Book Store in New York City. West Virginian Jay Rockefeller’s wife, Sharon, has been president of WETA in Washington for nearly two decades; Alabaman Richard Shelby’s wife, Annette, is a professor emerita of management at Georgetown; Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln’s husband, Steve, is a leading infertility doctor in Fairfax.

Some Senate marriages are mixes of politics: The husband of Maine’s Olympia Snowe, John McKernan, is a former governor, and Arlen Specter’s wife, Joan, is a former Philadelphia councilwoman.

But politics isn’t for everyone. Colorado senator Ken Salazar’s wife, Hope, owned a Dairy Queen franchise, which she later sold for six figures.

This article is from the May 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from the issue, click here.

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