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Wife defeats husband to win Maine election

Nov. 6, 2013 at 7:03 PM ET

Jennifer Johnson ran against her husband Dave for an elected office in Maine.
Courtesy Jennifer Johnson
Jennifer Johnson ran against her husband Dave for an elected office in Maine.

Most spouses like to engage in a little friendly competition, but David and Jennifer Johnson took their contest for bragging rights to a whole new level: They ran for elected office against each other.

The race between the Waterville, Maine, couple began earlier this year when Jennifer attended a local Democratic caucus and discovered that no one from her precinct volunteered to run for warden. The position involves assisting poll workers on Election Day, and requires a maximum of two days of service each year.

Jennifer, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom with a passion for the democratic process, hated the idea of a blank spot on the ballot, so she submitted her name.

“No one is completely happy with the way things in government are going,” she told TODAY.com, “but to have such a lack of desire to do anything – it bothers me.”

Her husband, a Republican who also believes in the virtue of civic duty, joked that he would run against his wife — which turned out to be pretty easy. David, 33, was the only person to turn up from his ward at the local caucus.

So began the battle — which wasn’t actually heated.

"We ran against each other as a joke," Jennifer said. "That's how it started: us being silly about something we're really passionate about."

She thought David might win because of his gender, but he insisted she’d be victorious because of her party affiliation; 65 percent of ballots cast in their precinct for the 2012 presidential election were for Barack Obama, so he assumed she would be more popular as the Democratic candidate.

Neither member of the couple campaigned, and they were surprised at how much media attention their race received. "It really started as this kind of ha-ha thing between the two of us, and then the local reporter commented it, and then it got picked up," Jennifer said. 

On Tuesday evening, Jennifer prevailed by a 127-76 margin. She got the call while the couple sat on the couch at home, and she didn’t skip gloating. “I won,” she recalls, of how she broke the news. “I think that was my victory speech.” 

As for David’s concession speech? “Congratulations,” he told her. “I’m glad the person I voted for won.”

The Johnsons, who are parents to three young children, may serve as something of a model of bipartisanship to other elected officials. They often talk politics, focusing on topics where they share common beliefs, and Jennifer asks David's advice for how better to communicate with Republicans.

“Whether you’re talking about a Republican or Democrat, it shouldn’t be hard to listen and say I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t think you’re coming from a place of stupidity or hatred,” Jennifer said. “Nobody is all bad or all good.”

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