What has four siblings, two parties and five careers at the Capitol?
The Hervig family. And don’t even get them started on Thanksgiving.
“We probably argue more about turkey bacon versus bacon bacon” than politics, says the eldest, Daniel.
Another sibling chimes in with a slightly different take. “They have been fighting since the day Janelle came out from the womb,” she says.
She’s looking at her brother and her sister Janelle Relfe, who works for Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. Both are legislative directors.
“She’s a Republican just to get back at me,” adds Daniel, a Democrat.
“Honestly, their parents are all very proud of all four of them,” says the other Republican in this raucous group, Mitch Relfe. He’s Janelle’s husband and (wait for it) a legislative director too.
That’s just like Mitch — always “the diplomat,” says Mary Beth Hervig.
She and her younger sister, Angela, may be at the beginning of their careers, but they can hold their own, even among the crosstalk of a boisterous family interview.
“Just know I’m the favorite, and I tie the siblings together as the baby. They all nurture me, so it softens them up when we talk politics,” says Angela, 22. She’s an intern for House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.
As for Mary Beth, she’s 23 and a staff assistant for yet another Democrat, Pennsylvania Rep. Brendan F. Boyle.
“It’s funny because whenever you say, ‘My sister and my brother-in-law are Republicans,’ the first thing out of everyone’s mouth is always, ‘What’s Thanksgiving like?’” she says.
But Thanksgiving for the Hervig family is no different from any other day, or so they insist.
“It’s not like your standard [situation] where families … see each other on Thanksgiving so they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna bring up the president.’ Because we live and breathe it, we always are talking about it,” says Janelle, 31.
It’s not like their parents are particularly political. While their mom and stepfather are moderates, with the former leaning Democratic, their father and stepmother are Republicans.
“Most people think I’m a Republican when they first meet me on the Hill until we start talking about politics,” says Daniel, 33, who works for Michigan’s 13th District, previously held by John Conyers Jr.
“It’s that really clean cut — ” jokes Mitch.
“— now that you all grow beards, I guess,” Daniel shoots back.
As the banter flies, I can barely keep up. But Mitch, who works for Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne, embraces the family split.
“We’ve appreciated getting to know Daniel’s friends. When you’re working as a staffer up here, things have to be basically bipartisan to get things done. I think it’s kind of nice having a bipartisan family network,” he says.
Janelle adds, “When I meet people who know Daniel, I have to redeem myself, but I have no idea what he told them about me.”
She and Daniel paved the way for the other siblings in D.C.
“Even though we didn’t have political parents, they’re ten years older,” Mary Beth says.
“— we’re kind of your political parents,” Janelle interjects.
Mary Beth adds, “So we did have an older political influence. It made us really interested in politics at a younger age.”
The contrast isn’t lost on Mitch. “On top of the DeMint, Franken split, I mean she is [now] an LD for Jeb Henserling and he was a LD for John Conyers, that’s like a —”
“That’s pretty much as far as you can get,” Janelle says.
“Did we ever co-sponsor a bill together?” Daniel asks Janelle.
“Probably not,” she laughs.
Mitch entered the mix in 2010, when he and Janelle met in the run-up to former Sen. Scott Brown’s special election in Boston. While he’s from Alabama, the Hervig siblings call South Carolina home. Meanwhile, the youngest Hervigs were already dipping their toes in politics. When the 2008 Republican presidential primary debate was in Myrtle Beach, Mary Beth and Angela went to the venue and joined a group that was pushing for climate change policies. They were barely teenagers at the time.
Now the whole family is on the Hill. Angela started her internship in Hoyer’s office just last month. Mary Beth got her start in Conyers office in 2017, working for her brother, and did a stint in Hoyer’s office too.
“She interned with me. I wanted to make sure she learned the ropes the right way,” Daniel says.
“We kind of talk for them sometimes. They’re like our kids,” Janelle says.
Daniel adds, “You have to hold the floor in our household. Your time is not very respected. You have to hold it, and if you don’t, you don’t talk.”