Mary Bono and Connie Mack divorce: ‘Life really changed’ after election losses

May 29, 2013

Serving in Congress is hard on a marriage — but maybe being out of office is even harder?

Former House members Connie Mack and Mary Bono Mack — only the third married couple to serve together in Congress — announced just before the holiday weekend that their six-year union was over. Both lost their elections in November, which could have been a new chapter in their marriage.

PALM SPRINGS, CA - JANUARY 05: Connie Mack (L) and Mary Bono Mack attend the 24th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center on January 5, 2013 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images For Palm Springs Film Festival)
Connie Mack and Mary Bono Mack at the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in California earlier this year. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images For Palm Springs Film Festival)

Instead, it was the beginning of the end.

“Life really changed” after the campaigns, a source close to Bono told us Tuesday. Their dual careers worked well when they were both in Washington, we’re told, but less so when they were in two states — Florida for Mack, California for Bono. Geography didn’t help, but “clearly, there were other issues.”

No one knows the joys and pressures of a two-politician marriage better than Susan Molinari, who campaigned side by side with the Macks over the years. “I’m really sad because I love them both,” she told us. “They were a great couple.”

Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., and wife Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., show off their month-old baby Susan Ruby Paxon on Capitol Hill Wednesday June 5, 1996. Afterward the threesome was to attend a Republican leadership meeting with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Ga. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Bill Paxon and wife Susan Molinari with their child Susan Ruby Paxon in 1996. (Greg Gibson/AP Photo)

Now head of Google’s D.C. office, Molinari was a New York congresswoman when she wed fellow New York Rep. Bill Paxon in 1994 after a two-year courtship — which often included dates at constituent events in their districts. “The pro is that you understand the time required, tough campaigns, and life under a magnifying glass,” she said. The cons: Your life is really not your own.

“It’s the time — and it’s fairly rigid,” she explained. “When you’re in elected office, you can’t say, ‘I’m going to miss this vote because it’s my anniversary.’ There’s no flexibility.” Molinari resigned her seat in 1997, shortly after their first daughter was born; Paxon left office two years later. They’ll celebrate their 19th anniversary in July.

Wedding bells on Capitol Hill... Rep. Martha Keys and Rep. Andy Jacobs pose on Nov. 20, 1975, after announcing their engagement. They become the first concurrently serving married members of Congress in history.
Martha Keys and Andy Jacobs. (Linda Wheeler/The Washington Post)

The first married couple to serve together in Congress was Andrew Jacobs and Martha Keys. The two met shortly after Keys was elected in 1974 and they married that same year, after she divorced her husband of 26 years. They understood each other’s responsibilities and schedules, she told the AP in 1977: “We knew we had them when we married and knew what they entailed.” Keys survived a second term — but the marriage didn’t. They separated in 1981 and eventually divorced.

(Other famous congressional couples didn’t serve in the Capitol as husband and wife: Olympia Snowe and Jock McKernan dated while representing Maine. but wed after he became governor; former senators Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker served together, but wed years after he left office.)

Mack and Bono caused a stir when they began dating in 2005. Both were young and glamorous: She was the widow of the singer/politician Sonny Bono; he was the fourth generation of the Florida Mack dynasty. The two married in 2007 (her third, his second) and often were seen holding hands or sitting together on the House floor.

Last November, both Mack, now 45, and Bono, 51, lost their races: He left the House and lost his Senate bid against Bill Nelson; she failed to win reelection to an eighth term from her California district. They both snagged jobs working for D.C. lobbying firms and looked happy on the red carpet earlier this year.

The couple released a statement Friday saying that they have “nothing but respect and admiration for each other,” but gave no reason for the split. Mack did not respond to a request for comment.

This story appears in the print edition of Wednesday, May 29, and contains some material that previously appeared online as well.

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