U.S. SENATE RACE
Webb's Wife Steps Into Onstage Role, Denouncing Criticism of Va. Candidate
Friday, November 3, 2006
At a "Women Choose Webb" rally this week in Arlington for Virginia's Democratic Senate candidate, a pregnant woman was nearly squeezed off the stage by the big-name politicians. An organizer had to push her toward the front to make sure she would be seen. After all, James Webb's wife belonged in the photograph.
Hong Le Webb, a 38-year-old securities lawyer, has shied away from the spotlight throughout her husband's campaign. But she took a rare turn at the microphone that day, defending him against charges that he is insensitive to women and to praise him for his military service in her native Vietnam.
She told the crowd that Webb comes from a family of strong Virginia women and that he has supported her as a working mother.
"If I leave you with anything, it would be that about my husband," she said. "And without his service in Vietnam, I could not be the woman I am today."
Female voters are viewed as crucial to the Democrat's challenge to U.S. Sen. George Allen (R), a contest that is a virtual dead heat. The incumbent's wife, Susan Allen, has raised her profile in recent weeks to rebut criticism about his character.
Now it's Hong Le Webb's turn.
At the rally Monday, she rebuked the Allen campaign's charges that racy scenes in her husband's novels are demeaning to women.
"It's despicable," she said. "These novels have been out forever and were released to high acclaim."
In an interview at her law office at Franklin Square in downtown Washington, Hong Le Webb said she has stayed offstage in part because of recent turbulence in her own life.
In the past year, she has gotten engaged and married, moved into Webb's Lake Barcroft home, started a new job, lost her mother to cancer and learned that she was pregnant. She has a 9-year-old daughter from her first marriage; Webb has four children from his two previous unions. Hong Le Webb is due to give birth in December.
"It's been a fairly difficult year personally for me," she said. "We were unprepared for what the process was going to be like. The fact that I have a job and I have these outside interests allows me to deal with it better, because I don't feel like I have the same stake in the process."
Occasionally, she has appeared at her husband's side. She accompanied him to a rally with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in Alexandria.