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Marriage Unites Freshmen in 112th Congress

by Seth Eisenberg

When it comes to getting elected to Congress, marriage may well be a factor.  More than 90 percent of the new members elected earlier this month are married compared to 52 percent of American adults, according to a recent Pew Survey. Just 10 of 105 freshmen members of the U.S. House of Representatives are single, including Frederica Wilson, 68, of Florida’s 17th Congressional District, who is widowed.

Frederica Wilson

Frederica Wilson, a widow, is one of just 11 unmarried freshman members of the 112th Congress.

Other single members of the 112th Congress include Republicans David Rivera and Dennis Ross of Florida, New York’s Michael Grimm, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Single Democrats joining Rep. Wilson include Rhode Island’s David Cicilline and Louisiana’s Cedric Richmond. California Democrat Karen Bass is divorced. All of the remaining 95 freshman representatives are married, including Tennessee’s Scott DesJarlais who is happily remarried after a divorce a decade ago. [Editor’s Note: We apologize for incorrectly listing Congressman DesJarlais as unmarried in an earlier version of this post.]

While few campaigns toted candidates’ marital status to inspire supporters, strong marriages are likely a factor. Candidates who can count on spouses as active surrogates during hard fought campaigns, trusted confidants, advisers, and effective fund-raisers have a valuable foundation for the grueling work of a Congressional campaign.

Although Congressman Kendrick Meek failed in his bid to be elected to the Senate, his wife, Judge Leslie Meek, regularly appeared with the four-term Florida representative on the campaign trail and as an eloquent surrogate in his absence.

Service in Congress can also take its toll on marriages. Long hours, frequent separation from spouses who stay home instead of moving to Washington, and the allure of lobbyists, staffers, and interns has spelled trouble for more than a few of their predecessors. Skills such as the Daily Temperature Reading help many families survive demanding careers and long-distance relationships.

While the newly elected members will likely look to their Party leadership for partisan guidance on many of the issues they will face when they take office in January,  the freshman members’ common commitment to strong marriages and the advice of trusted spouses will undoubtedly have an impact too.

Seth Eisenberg is President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.

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