Linda Witt
November 01, 1976 12:00 PM

Life is dicey enough when one breadwinner in a family is at the tenuous mercy of the electorate. But what about history’s first congressional couple—Democrats Andrew Jacobs of Indiana and Martha Keys of Kansas? They are in double jeopardy on Nov. 2. And, worse, their marriage 10 months ago has lowered the reelection chances of at least one of them. Predictably, the pol in trouble is Martha.

She wed Andy, who at 44 is 18 months her junior, just half a year after divorcing her first husband. That was a political indiscretion in her Bible Belt district around Topeka. The sensationalized marital atmosphere of Capitol Hill, she explains, “can’t be blamed in my case at all.” She and Jacobs barely met before her divorce. “The voters knew I’d been married for 26 years,” she adds, “except that it had been a nonmarriage for many years.”

Andy, in turn, is outraged by insinuations from Martha’s Republican opponent that her heart has been re-districted to Indiana. “It’s the old double standard that says a married woman can’t be an independent thinker,” he fumes. “I haven’t heard anyone in Indiana complain about my having a wife in Kansas. But in Kansas they are banging her over the head with it.” Jacobs’ own brief first marriage to the daughter of former Indiana Gov. Matthew Welsh was annulled more than a decade ago and has barely been an issue in his five terms in office.

Keys and Jacobs commute weekends to tend their home districts. Such a schedule leaves them only four days a week at their rustic home in Falls Church, Va. Martha calls it the “safety valve for all the pressures” of a work load that keeps them on the Hill as late as 4 a.m. At least they are together. They met, of all unlikely places, on the Ways and Means Committee at the end of the Wilbur Mills regime. “The only obstacle to our romance,” Andy jokes, “was Abner Mikva”—the Illinois Democrat who sat between them before he agreed to trade seats.

Their first encounter, in fact, was a debate on whether there should be tax credit for home insulation (she was clamorously pro, he was con). She agreed to a first date with her antagonist to hear a lecture at the Library of Congress. But by their second time out, their romance “took hold nicely, eh, Cakes?” he asks Martha. She blushes at that nom d’amour. Andy still says he can remember the instant when the tingle turned to a thumping in his chest. “Martha was asked to speak to a Brookings Institution group. I slipped into the back of the room and listened and fell in love.” Her oratorical style, Jacobs marvels, is powerful for its simplicity. He’s more orotund, with a memory bank of quotes from Lincoln to Tillich, Eric Sevareid to Lenny Bruce. During dull committee sessions, he dictates billets-doux on his Norelco recorder. Their offices, three floors apart in the Longworth Building, are connected by a private phone they call the “warm line.” When they are out of eyeshot they even kiss in the congressional corridors.

Jacobs was always a political animal. His father, Andrew Sr., held the same Indianapolis congressional seat in 1948-50 and is now a fabled criminal judge who holds court in bedroom slippers. Andy served as a combat infantryman with the Marines in Korea and graduated from Indiana University. He worked his way through law school moonlighting as a policeman.

After one term in the Indiana legislature, Jacobs came to Congress in 1965. As one of the early and most eloquent Vietnam “doves,” he wound up on the Nixon administration’s “hit list.” “They were going to get a redhead to seduce me,” he claims. That was never consummated, but after four different gerrymanders, Jacobs was finally unhorsed in 1972. Having regained the seat in the next election, he deadpans, “You might say I was born again.” Ever a maverick, Andy returns to the government all of his congressional-voted pay raises, as does Martha, and he refuses campaign contributions from special interest groups, including labor unions. “Some days we turn back more than we accept,” Jacobs’ campaign manager laments.

Martha is the daughter of a Church of the Nazarene minister from Hutchinson, Kans. and the granddaughter of two pioneering husband-and-wife ministers. “Some who heard them both preach say she was the better one,” Martha notes proudly. After majoring in music at Kansas State, she turned housewife, raising four children, now 15 to 26, with her first husband, educator Samuel Keys. Though her only previous salaried job had been as a secretary, Martha was a longtime citizen activist, drafted into politics in 1972 by her sister Lee, the wife of Colorado’s Sen. Gary Hart, to run George McGovern’s Kansas campaign. Two years later she became the state’s only female (not to mention Democrat) in Congress.

The first woman freshman and only the second woman ever to be assigned to the crucial Ways and Means Committee, Keys has crafted skillful feminist (a term she rejects) tax revisions, including child-care credits for working parents and reforms to help widows save family farms. “She’s been an absolute star of the committee,” says colleague Mikva admiringly. “She’s not a lawyer and not an economist, but she’s not only held her own but stood out in a very fast league. Andy’s more vocal on the floor, a conscience voter.” If polls mean anything, Jacobs is a shoo-in and Keys is in trouble. “If a person came to me and said, ‘Sign here and she’ll win her election but you’ll forfeit yours,’ I’d sign,” Andy says unhesitatingly. “She must not be denied credit for her good work in Congress.” Finding love—and support—the second time around makes Martha “feel lucky every day. We have the perfect relationship.”

They could accept defeat in November. “This really isn’t a fine way to live,” says Jacobs. He rejected a feeler to run against Sen. Vance Hartke in the primary, because that would have kept him away from Martha. Neither aspires to higher office, but Andy still jokes to his wife, “If we run for President, do we flip a coin to see who leads the ticket?”

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