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Webb's Wife Steps Into Onstage Role, Denouncing Criticism of Va. Candidate
But she hasn't been as visible as Susan Allen.
"They're two very different people," said Lynda Robb, wife of former Virginia Sen. Charles S. Robb (D), who has watched both women campaign. "Susan is very partisan . . . always has been." Hong Le Webb, she said, is less so.
Ingrid H. Morroy, Arlington County's revenue commissioner and Webb's campaign treasurer, said that Hong Le's intelligence and "very, very compelling story" make her a political asset for her husband. It was Morroy who nudged her forward at the Arlington rally.
"She's doing what she can. . . . We have to appreciate the fact that she's a full-time working mother," Morroy said.
Hong Le was 7 when Saigon fell in 1975 and her family fled in the middle of the night from their small village, Vung Tau, southeast of the city.
She remembers only "snapshots" of their escape: the sea filled with boats carrying other refugees, the U.S. military ships that scooped loads of people up in nets, how some slipped and fell into the water. Then came the relief of rescue and the strange feeling of riding an escalator on a Navy ship, holding tight to her grandmother's hand.
At that time, James Webb had already begun drafting a novel inspired by his experience as a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam. "Fields of Fire" was published three years later.
She said her husband often teases her about the escape. "He says that if [U.S. troops] hadn't rescued me, I'd be snaggletoothed and selling pencils on the streets of Saigon," she said. "It wouldn't be too far from the truth. If I'd stayed behind in Vietnam, I wouldn't be where I am today."
When she arrived in the United States with her parents and other relatives, the family settled in New Orleans. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1990 and earned a law degree from Cornell University in 1993.
The Webbs met in late 1994 at a business lunch and kept in touch until 2002. That year, she said, they were both separated from their spouses and began dating. Although he is 22 years older, the two shared an immediate connection through Vietnam. She was impressed by his love of the Vietnamese culture and people and his working grasp of the language.
In August 2005, when they began discussing marriage seriously, a family crisis emerged. Hong Le Webb's relatives in the New Orleans area, including her ailing mother, were evacuated because of Hurricane Katrina.
Events in that period catalyzed Webb's candidacy, she said.
"He really cared about what was going on this country, after 9/11 and especially after Katrina," she said. "He'd get really upset in front of the TV. I would say to him, 'Either you decide to do something about it, or stop watching TV or move somewhere else.' "
In their October wedding at their Fairfax County home, Webb's son, Jimmy, who is a Marine in Iraq, was the best man. The elder Webb -- "a good singer!" his wife said -- serenaded his bride with the Patsy Cline hit "Crazy."
Now, near the end of the tumultuous campaign, Hong Le Webb said she couldn't predict the outcome of Tuesday's election.
"Given the way this race has gone in the last months, I wouldn't be surprised if he wins, and I wouldn't be surprised if he loses," she said. "I haven't been in this process long enough to make an honest assessment. However it goes, we have reason to celebrate in December." That's when the new baby is to arrive.
A profile of Susan Allen, the wife Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), appeared in The Washington Post on Oct. 5. It can be viewed athttp:/