- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

If Sen. George Allen is the team captain of his re-election campaign, Susan Allen is the head cheerleader.

And while voters most often see Mr. Allen’s challenger James H. Webb Jr. out on the stump, both his wife and ex-wife have been rallying support, at times together, for the decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Pundits jokingly refer to the women standing behind their men as the secret weapons in this year’s Senate race in Virginia, but voters are noticing their work.

Election Day is Nov. 7.

When Mr. Allen, a Republican, is in Southside Virginia, Mrs. Allen is stumping for votes in Northern Virginia. She appears in campaign ads and in some places is more popular than her husband.

“I’ve been his sidekick for about 20 years now and have been active in all of his campaigns,” Mrs. Allen, 45, told The Washington Times. “I know no other way. George and I have always done this together.”

Mr. Webb, a Democrat, is often joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Hong Le Webb, a corporate finance lawyer. She’s not used to life in the spotlight.

“I don’t think either of us were prepared for the intensity of the process, including the public scrutiny,” Mrs. Webb, 37, told Lowell Feld, a blogger who works for the campaign. “We both value our privacy and family time. For the most part, we’ve kept our family out of the public scrutiny and prefer it that way.”

The Webb campaign did not respond to requests by The Times to interview Mrs. Webb or to questions submtted by the newspaper.

Mr. and Mrs. Allen celebrated their 20-year anniversary this year. The Allens have three children between the ages of 8 and 18. It is Mr. Allen’s second marriage.

Mr. Webb and Mrs. Webb married in 2005. It is Mr. Webb’s third marriage.

Mr. Webb has four children between the ages of 20 and 35 and several grandchildren. Mrs. Webb has a 9-year-old daughter. The Webbs are expecting their first child in December.

When Mrs. Allen was at the University of South Carolina in the early 1980s, her parents in Charlottesville made sure she cast an absentee ballot for “this cute boy” running for the House of Delegates.

“He won that race by 25 votes thanks to parents like mine,” she laughed, recalling Mr. Allen’s first political victory.

Mr. Webb met Miss Le in the mid-1990s when they both conducted business in Vietnam. They fell in love a few years ago.

“We started dating while we were separated from our former spouses, and perhaps going through similarly difficult experiences in our lives allowed our friendship to blossom,” Mrs. Webb told Mr. Feld.

Mr. Webb, 60, and Mr. Allen, 54, have different styles in involving their families on the campaign trail.

Mr. Allen’s speeches, campaign ads and debate comebacks often include the phrase “Susan and I.”

“You’re the reason why I’ve gotten elected to anything,” the former governor recently told his wife.

For the most part, Mr. Webb has kept his family out of the spotlight, but lately a pregnant Mrs. Webb has been more prominent on the campaign trail.

She recently greeted supporters at churches in Chesapeake, Va., and was lauded by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat who endorsed Mr. Webb, at an Alexandria fundraiser.

Both Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Webb said the ugliness of the campaign has taken a toll on their families.

Mrs. Webb called it a “smear campaign against Jim,” and Mrs. Allen said she tells the children to “smile through it all, have a thick skin and a sense of humor.”

Mrs. Webb was born in Vietnam but left her homeland after the fall of Saigon. She told Mr. Feld it has not always been easy balancing a career with being a mother, noting it helps her understand the plight of working families. Her mother was the primary breadwinner and her sisters have been entrepreneurs, she said.

Mrs. Allen, who has been involved in tourism promotion and women’s health issues, also praised the women in her family as strong role models.

Mrs. Allen blushes when she is compared to first lady Laura Bush.

Recently, President Bush said he and Mr. Allen have something in common: “We’re both named George and we both married smart, beautiful women.”

Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Bush became friends when their husbands served as governors, and they remain close. Mrs. Bush held a fundraiser for the campaign this week.

Mr. Webb also has the endorsement of his ex-wife, Jo Ann Kruker, who campaigns on behalf of her former husband.

Ms. Kruker told voters in Arlington last spring that Mr. Webb was “born fighting for the American dream,” The Washington Post reported.

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