As 11-year-old Brady invites me into his Capitol Hill home, things are buzzing. Cocker spaniel Princess sprints over to inspect who rang the doorbell — her doorbell, apparently. Taekwondo is barely over, and homework is in progress upstairs.
But Brady is no stranger to buzz. His dad is Brad Woodhouse, a veteran Democratic consultant. And his mom, Jessica Carter? She’s a Republican operative.
I’m there to ask the middle-schooler about his recently published fantasy novel, which takes place on Mars. But I can’t help but notice another otherworldly scene unfolding in front of me: a bipartisan family enjoying a Wednesday night in rabidly partisan Washington.
“I ask people to pray for me,” jokes Brad.
Brad and his brother Dallas, executive director of the beleaguered North Carolina Republican Party, are known for their on-again, off-again political feud, which has spawned a documentary and many a fiery TV segment. Their mom once called into C-SPAN to scold them for bickering.
With Jessica, it’s a different story. Brad and his wife have been married for 16 years, and relatively tranquil ones at that. You won’t find them squabbling in front of the cameras.
That’s not to say it was love at first sight. The two met in 1998 as staffers on Capitol Hill. After interning for Republican member Ed Royce, Jessica was working in Richard Pombo’s office, where she eventually became chief of staff.
Brad started out in North Carolina under Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt, but soon turned his sights on Washington.
“I sent like, 110 letters to members of Congress … trying to find a job,” he recalls. “I found out that wasn’t really the way it was done, so when I got an opportunity, I came.”
That opportunity was as a legislative assistant for Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge. Both Brad and Jessica’s bosses were members of the House Agriculture panel, which in turn planted a seed.
They’d seen each other around the Hill, but they “didn’t really talk,” Jessica laughs. The first memorable interaction was in 1998 at that year’s Congressional Baseball Game. Woodhouse recalls making a “smartass comment” while getting his baseball signed by Speaker Newt Gingrich. Jessica, who was within earshot, recalls a sneer.
After a few failed attempts by Brad to get Jessica out for beers at Capitol Lounge, mutual friends ultimately brought the Democrat and Republican together at a fundraiser at Red River Grill (known today as Union Pub). The rest is political history.
More than two decades later, Brad and Jessica still fondly remember the dollar beer, trivia and 10-cent wing nights. Their big differences of opinion weren’t a big deal.
The controversial Clinton impeachment season was in full swing, and the pair knew that nothing constructive would come of talking about Bill or Newt. Besides, the young staffers were still getting to know each other, so questions like “How was your day?” and conversations about family sufficed.
And they still do. Between episodes of HGTV’s “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” and walks with the kids to neighboring Barracks Row, they leave partisan sniping at the door, much like wiping mud off their feet. They’re more pleased than peeved by comparisons to political odd couple James Carville and Mary Matalin, given how long that marriage has endured.
As for kids Brady and Taylor, there’s no evidence of political ambitions yet. But Brady has already caught his dad’s communicator bug, if his latest project is any indication. The sixth-grader, who attends Capitol Hill Day School, started working on a 30,000-word fiction manuscript a year ago. The result is his self-published book “Sam and Sofia: The Magic of the Stars,” the story of twin girls who discover an asteroid that takes their lives from boring to out of this world.
He wrote it all himself, his father brags.
Younger sibling Taylor, 10, is an athlete just like mom. When she’s not adding to her collection of taekwondo belts, hockey is her preferred sport, as evidenced by the Capitals jersey she’s sporting when we meet.
Mom and dad don’t offer much in the way of parenting advice, but this Gen X couple does have a simple recommendation for Hill millennials hoping to follow in their footsteps. If you want to walk not just across the aisle, but down it, you have to find a sense of humor.
Don’t “take things too seriously,” says Jessica. “She keeps me on my toes,” adds Brad.