You can never predict what’s going to happen daily, or even hourly, while on the campaign trail. For NBC News political producer Alexandra “Alex” Moe, life on the road working the 2012 presidential primary campaign involved 20-hour workdays, endless deadlines and short nights of sleep in lonely, nondescript hotel rooms.
It certainly doesn’t sound like the recipe for romance. But the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses proved the perfect setting for the start of Alex’s relationship with Republican operative Derek Flowers.
When Alex, a Maryland native and University of Maryland graduate, was assigned to cover the Iowa Caucus, she knew very little about the Hawkeye State. She was the youngest NBC political embed reporter on the trail and had never lived outside the Beltway.
“I didn’t even think they had Starbucks. That’s how naive I was back then,” she admits.
Derek, on the other hand, was born in Creston, Iowa, and had been involved in state politics since he was an undergraduate at Iowa State University. He went to Des Moines in 2006 to work as a staffer on Mitt Romney’s political action committee, and later presidential campaign, and returned in 2011 as a political consultant.
Once Alex arrived in Iowa in July 2011, their paths crossed quickly and often, as they ran in the same political circles and maintained mutual friends. But they weren’t formally introduced until a debate watch party in mid-October. Afterward, they joined friends at a local bar, where they shared a table and bonded over drinks.
Impressed by their repartee and Alex’s ebullient personality, Derek asked a friend for her contact information. The shared acquaintance assumed it was for professional, not personal, reasons and copied Alex on his reply. Derek was mortified.
It was a fortuitous mistake, however: Alex began inviting Derek to trivia nights and house parties. A friendship quickly formed and, two weeks before Alex left to cover Newt Gingrich’s campaign, Derek asked her to dinner.
Time was of the essence, and Alex, ever the journalist, wasted no time determining their compatibility. She peppered him with questions.
It “was like filling out a Match.com online profile in person,” Derek says jokingly. “It was everything from ‘What’s your dream vacation?’ to ‘Would you consider yourself a clean person?’ ”
At the end of the evening, Alex asked Derek point-blank whether he considered it a date.
“Did you want it to be?” he replied. She did.
And as the 2012 primary campaign heated up, so did the couple’s budding relationship. They kept in constant communication and arranged dates in 12 states. They would often drive hours out of their way just to meet for dinner.
“It was always a day, never longer,” says Derek, who is now a consultant for the D.C.-based public-affairs advocacy firm Woodberry Associates.
After Election Day in November 2012, the couple celebrated with a week-long vacation in Costa Rica. But just as the dust began to settle, Alex was offered an associate producer position in NBC’s New York office. Both realized the opportunity was too good to pass up and agreed to continue dating long-distance.
At first, the commute was manageable — Derek split his time between the District and Iowa, and New York was an easy bus ride from Washington. But once Derek joined the Senate campaign of Iowa Republican Joni Ernst, he began spending more time in Iowa, and things got rocky.
“There were times when . . . we wouldn’t see each other for a month,” Alex says.
Long separations, coupled with their stressful jobs, strained the relationship. In January 2014, they broke up. During their time apart, however, they kept busy: Alex covered breaking news, while Derek became a campaign manager of Ernst’s successful Senate run.
The break proved short-lived. Derek spotted Alex’s name on a press list for a political event in Cedar Rapids in June and decided to drive two hours from Des Moines to see her. Casual drinks segued into five hours of conversation, and, by the end of the night, they both were determined to make their relationship work.
“I knew how much fun we always had together, how much we respected each other and how much, even when we were apart, I always wanted to be with him,” Alex says.
She moved to Washington in September 2014, and they bought a house on Capitol Hill in October 2015. Derek continues to split his time between Des Moines and Washington, while Alex covers the House of Representatives as an NBC producer.
With strong encouragement from family, friends, colleagues and even some politicians, Derek planned to propose to Alex in April 2016. But politics got in the way again — Alex was busy covering Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — and it took Derek three attempts to ultimately pop the question.
His first try was thwarted after he discovered Alex had to be up at 6 a.m. the next morning for a flight, which would undermine the possibility of any late-night celebrations. The second plan was derailed by Alex’s last-minute trip to Reading, Pa., with Andrea Mitchell to interview then-candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Luckily, the third time was the charm, and, on April 22, he dropped to a knee and proposed at the lower Senate Park on the way to dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak. She said yes.
“It was one of those things that I always knew was coming, but you never know how,” Alex said. “I was just so happy. It was awesome. ... Everyone’s reaction was like, ‘Finally! It’s about time!’ ”
For Alex, politics and planning a wedding proved strange bedfellows, but she didn’t let the demands of an election year interfere.
“I plan things for a living,” she says. “The fun part, for me, was taking a break [from it] and working on wedding stuff.”
On Dec. 10, 102 guests — including such media personalities as Mitchell, Luke Russert and Katy Tur — gathered on the beach at Marco Island, Fla., to watch Alex, 29, and Derek, 33, tie the knot. Later, as darkness descended and the reception was well underway at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, the bride surprised her guests — and unsuspecting groom — with a fireworks display.
“His face was priceless,” Alex says. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to go off — literally — but it was very cool.”
The couple celebrated five years together during their two-week honeymoon in the Hawaiian Islands. When asked where they hoped to be five years from now, Alex replied, hopefully “having fun and looking for a new adventure, whether it’s jobs, or travel, or family.”
“I don’t think either of us really have much to complain about. We’re both pretty darn happy,” Derek chimed in. “Staying like this forever would be fantastic.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Alex Moe moved to Iowa to cover Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign for NBC News in 2012. She left to Iowa to cover the Iowa Caucus and then later covered Gingrich’s campaign. It also misreported that Alex was sent to Philadelphia to help cover an interview with Bernie Sanders. The interview took place in Reading, Pa. This version has been corrected.
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