Like most married couples, Andy Dawkins and Ellen Anderson disagree about lots of things. What makes their domestic squabbles unusual is that they are as likely to revolve around the state of Minnesota's affairs as those of their own household. That's because both of them serve in the legislature there.
"We agree on the basic issues," says Anderson, a state senator. But when husband and fellow-Democrat Dawkins worked to kill one of her bills in his House committee, "that was not a good day when we got home," she recalls.
Since their marriage in 1995, Dawkins has maintained his own St. Paul apartment a few minutes from Anderson's house, to stay within the borders of his old House district. Recently, however, Dawkins announced he was retiring because this year's redistricting failed to put them in the same part of the political map. "I felt that when the children started school," he says, "they should have one house and one neighborhood to come home to."
Although their dual-residence arrangement might be unusual, husband- wife legislative teams are not. Karen Minnis worked for her husband, John, as a legislative aide during his career in the Oregon House. She ran--and won--when he was term-limited out. John has since taken over a Senate seat. In Ohio, term limits have made the legislature into a family affair, with four members of the current House having succeeded their spouses.
Many of them say that having had the insider perspective of a spouse gives them a leg up on their fellow freshmen. There is also the demystifying effect that being married to a legislator has on the process. Dawkins says he was able to convince Anderson that she should run for the state Senate because "once she got to know me well enough, she realized that if I could do it, she could do it."