So the congressman's campaign manager is his mother. So what's so strange about that?
He's 47 years old (she says 46), and she has the right skills, and besides, the idea of a family campaign delighted the voters.
Jim Moody was one of a field of 10 Democrats who rushed to fill the shoes of Rep. Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin when that veteran retired. A former state assemblyman and senator, Moody ran a true grass-roots campaign. He called on each of the 22,000 residents of his district, walking from house to house eight hours a day, every day for 16 months, even in 20-below-zero weather.
Each call meant an advance postcard and a follow-up letter and, for those interested in helping, a staff visit. Moody had his brother Mark, who had run the earlier campaigns for him, and his brother Michael working in the office at his Milwaukee home. An uncle and aunt came to help too, and pitched a tent in the back yard. But it was his mother who ran the show.
"It was really a tribal thing," says Jane Moody, who is 68. "His Aunt Eleanor was there eight months doing phone calls and mailings and all the other stuff. The people loved it. Where we come from, family is important."
The campaign was strictly nitty-gritty, she likes to say, nothing hifalutin. Eventually, she coordinated his army of 3,000 volunteers. She even did a TV commercial for her son.
Though they are close, they hadn't seen each other for some years when he called her out of retirement in Santa Barbara 14 months before the primary. He needed an anchor person, he said, someone with organizational talent and the ability to work with people.
"He always was goal-oriented," she observes. "He was an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin back in '76 when he called me and said there was a vacancy in the assembly, and what did I think about his getting into politics. I said fine. I was thrilled. I've always been a great writer to my congressman. Very much involved in social issues."
A graduate of Earlham, a Quaker college in Richmond, Ind., Jane Moody was raised to be concerned about the great issues of the day. Her mother was a civil-rights worker in the 1930s, decades before that became the liberal thing to do. As a young woman she herself worked in a Philadelphia settlement house for $10 a month, and later she and her husband James P. Moody went to China after World War II, he to direct the American Red Cross there, she to work for the International Refugee Organization. Jim was born in China.
"I did more refugee work when my husband was in Greece with the Marshall Plan. When we came back here, I was with the Job Corps and went to San Francisco for the regional office of labor. I left the government to work for a juvenile delinquency agency in Santa Barbara. Also, I worked with Cuban refugees for a while."
Jim Moody has the same kind of background: Raised a Quaker--he went to Haverford, Peace Corps in Pakistan and Morocco, the CARE program in Yugoslavia and Iran. When he was in college, he spent some time living in a Mexican village. In the latest election, he was the only candidate with foreign experience. Some observers have told him he couldn't have had a better history for a congressman.
The freshman lawmaker's committees are public works and transportation (his doctoral thesis was on transportation) and interior and insular affairs. His mother says he is strong on historic preservation and is interested in mass transit. In Wisconsin, he worked to deregulate trucking and fought a lake-front freeway project, among other things.
"I feel free to differ with him," his mother says. "He might try to convince me of something. He's always been a very independent spirit. He's the eldest child. He was always bright. He went to school in Shanghai and Greece--high school in Athens--and always questioned things. We were never disciplinarians in our family. We were pretty easygoing. There were always interesting guests in the house, a cosmopolitan atmosphere."
Jim and Michael were born when she was in her twenties, Mark and Margaret Moody Huston came 20 years later. There are two sets of grandchildren ranging from 18 years to 1. She is separated from her husband James, who lives in retirement in Georgia.
At the moment, Jane Moody is in Washington, helping her recently divorced son find a place to live. She worked without salary and of course will not be on his staff here.
Jim Moody says: "She was the Lillian Carter of my campaign. She was the person for the job. She'd had a career of her own, she had experience and skill in working with people, had been coordinating various activities for years--and she knew the candidate."
He can't recall any particular incidents, funny or otherwise, that arose from having his mother manage his campaign. It never struck him as especially noteworthy.
"I call her Jane mostly," he says. "But sometimes Mom."