Two young Democrats, she a lawyer for the Department of the Army, he the staff economist for the Senate Labor and Human Rights Committee, were married in late October. Their honeymoon on St. John's was over on election eve. The next day they were both unemployed.
"I said I didn't want an uncommon marriage, but I wasn't counting on this," laughs Regina Cullen.
While the hazards of political life have always been legion, there are dozens of Democrats like Cullen and her husband, James McIntyre, who are part of a relatively new phenomenon: the politically displaced couple. This results, in part, from the last decade's expansion of job opportunities for women. The Carter administration's early push for family togetherness accounts for some of the dual misfortunes. But the Republican landslide this year pushed the situation along, threatening to take the income of the three couples interviewed from a healthy five figures to a potential zero-based budget. Their stories:
For the last few weeks, Joyce Woodson, director of community services for outgoing Virginia Rep. Herbert Harris' district office, has been near a "manic-depressive" state.
"At first, on election night, I just said 'oh wow,' about 20 times. But the next day, I started making calls," says Woodson, 27. She made lists, and lists of her lists, contacted 30 people from her carefully compiled Rolodex. Then she figured out a livable budget that stretched to June. This went on for three days. On the fourth, her whirlwind tempered into a good cry.
When she finally let her emotions go, all Woodson thought was, "The first thing I wanted to do was change the time."
Her husband, Howard, 29, is the chief legislative assistant for New Jersey Rep. Frank Thompson, defeated in the aftermath of his Abscam charges. He was stunned, scared and silent. The son of a New Jersey politician, Howard Woodson began working as a clerk for his own representative, Thompson, shortly after he finished Morehouse College in 1974.
About a year ago, he started thinking about switching congressional offices. "But when Thompson got into trouble I decided not to leave," says Woodson, who was earning $27,500. With an outstanding house and boat mortgage and child-care payments, the defeat has meant shelving a longtime dream of owning his own plane, and eventually a charter service.
The sudden unemployment has crept into their trust and patience with each other."We have had stupid fights," says Joyce Woodson. One night when the Thompson staff was packing up, Howard told her they were sending out for pizza. The staff members changed their minds and went out. When she called their was no answer. "I went off the handle, it got very nasty," says Joyce Woodson. "I slept on the other side of the bed, the whole bit."
In the five years since Joyce Woodson earned a planning degree at Barnard College, she has worked as a political volunteer, directed a plant consulting business, and starter their family. In July 1979, when their daughter was 2, she joined Harris' staff.
"I am underpaid, incredibly, though it is a sweet job," says Joyce Woodson, whose casework duties earned her less than $15,000 a year.
While they look for new jobs, the Woodsons have been volunteering in the congressional service center, an office for the incoming and outgoing staffs.
Joyce Woodson says she initially encountered the same problems as her last job search. "There are plenty of jobs for receptionists," she says. But, by the end of last week, she had a firm offer as a congressman's public affairs director. While she let herself succumb to the signs of the flu, her husband continued to look for work.
When Tom Glynn and Mary Lou Batt got married in June of 1979, they talked about the possibility of living in other cities, but the prospect of losing both jobs at once didn't pop up.
Glynn, an executive at the Department of Education, and Batt, the communications director of ACTION, sat in their comfortable Embassy Row condominium and talked about the plunge from comfortable five-figure, double salaries.
"We will end up grossing $25,000 less, netting $15,000 less. But we will live better," says Glynn. Both earned in the $50,000 range, a comfort that didn't earn them much free time. Now they are happily anticipating regular hours, vacation, dinners together, free weekends.
"We panicked for a week," says Glynn. "The numbers -- 7,000 out of work -- were just staggering. But the biggest thing is coming to terms that 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is not the center of the universe."
Both Glynn and Batt have lost political jobs before, when their bosses were defeated: Glynn in 1974 when he worked for Massachusetts Gov. Francis Sargent, and Batt in 1970 when she worked for New York Sen. Charles Goddell.
But they hadn't been through this crisis as a couple. "Then there was a real sense of being adrift," says Batt. "But having a partner go through the same thing, it's much more stable." A good example, offers the couple, is in their pool of contacts, double for both of them. Glynn had what he calls his "safety net of intimates" in Boston, a collective that readily received Batt in early December, though she had never worked or lived there.
There are other differences from their last forced political displacement. "Then I didn't feel like my whole philosophy was being called into question," says Glynn. "But all transitions are ugly experiences. It's hard not to feel some personal responsibility, not to feel guilty."
Before the election, Glynn and Batt had talked about leaving Washington. Batt had spent 12 years here, Glynn only 3 1/2. "I like the idea of going back to the regions," says Batt. But, adds Glynn, "It's safe to say if the president had been reelected we would have stayed. . . But I support wholeheartedly the axiom of getting away from Washington. . . I am interested in the implementation of federal programs at the local level."
The one rule Batt set was anywhere but New York.
The list of things Regina Cullen and James McIntyre have decided to give up on in the last month -- a house, a car, they don't own a television or a blender -- does not include Washington.
"In a way it's a catalyst," says McIntyre, 27, who was staff economist for the Senate Labor and Human Resources committee under outgoing New Jersey Sen. Harrison Williams. "For some time I have thought of transferring from government to private sector. I thought of consulting with business groups interested in unemployment and job training. Washington is the best place to find that."
Cullen, 28, had a presidential appointment as deputy general counsel for the Department of the Army. She is less optimistic about her job prospects. "My areas exist, international law and litigation, but the only drawback is that there are so many of us unemployed." So far, says Cullen, her views have proven right. "We have some nibbles, no bites."
Both Cullen and McIntyre are adamant about not accepting unemployment compensation for the loss of a $60,000 combined income. "You usually have to be fired to collect unemployment immediately. If you resign, there's a waiting period. But I believe unemployment wasn't created for people like me," says Cullen.
The change of the town's political stripes won't be a burden to the couple since they have had some practice being underdogs. Cullen grew up in a Republican, Catholic home in Ohio. She was the only Democrat at her recent high school reunion in Defiance. She says her parents spent several minutes expressing concern about her husband's job loss, "then as an afterthought asked about me."
Though McIntyre has been associated with liberal Democratic groups, he says his politics were too conservative for his parents. "They have always been to the left of me," he explains. "They were for McCarthy in '68, '72 and '76. This year they were for Anderson.After my father consoled me, he said he hoped it was a good lesson for the Democrats."
Both Cullen and McIntyre graduated from Macalester College in Minnesota, lived in the same coed dorm, went their separate ways, and met again last March. Cullen found the former college poet was now heavily into urban economics; McIntyre found the former campus journalist had gone to law school, then spent an additional year studying law in Brussels and had been an assistant attorney general in Kentucky. "Things happen fast in Washington," recalls McIntyre, discussing the reunion. The couple debated where the proposal took place: Mt. Vesuvius or the Tune Inn.
They have been able to keep their tempers and spirits, says McIntyre, through basic instincts. "I think the natural biological response is to stay alive, to react against something," he says. "I take the long view. The Republicans made a comeback in less than eight years, so will we."