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Marianne Gingrich recalls life in Washington politics

The Leetonia native will be the keynote speaker at a charitable event Saturday

April 21, 2003
By David Skolnick
Vindicator Politics Writer

Being married to one of the most controversial national political figures of the past two decades can be a challenge.

So says Marianne Ginther Gingrich, a Leetonia native and the ex-wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

In an interview Wednesday with The Vindicator, Gingrich said she enjoyed the Washington, D.C., lifestyle for the most part, but there were many misconceptions about her.

"The public thinks one thing, but what's really going on is another," she said. "One of the biggest misconceptions is I wasn't very involved in a lot of what went on [politically]."

Quite the contrary, she said.

"Sometimes if people don't see you on TV, they don't know what you're doing; they think you really aren't doing anything," she said.

"If you are doing something, people think you get on TV. It really doesn't work that way."

Gingrich, who lives in the Atlanta area, said she loved to campaign for her husband, and particularly enjoyed meeting people around the country.

She is the keynote speaker at the annual banquet of Who's Who Transitional Housing at 7 p.m. Saturday at Theodore's Banquet Centre in Mineral Ridge. Tickets are $25 each, with the proceeds going to the charitable organization.

Her topic

Gingrich will discuss "Preventing Homelessness One Family at a Time."

She also will attend a 6 p.m. fund-raising event Friday for Jo Ann Collier, a Republican candidate for Youngstown City Council's 6th Ward, at the Mahoning County Republican headquarters in Boardman.

She was married to Gingrich for 19 years, marrying him in 1981 when his political career was just starting.

Former U.S. Rep. Lyle Williams introduced the congressman to his future wife, the former director of the Trumbull County Planning Commission who had relocated to Washington.

Even when Gingrich became a powerful politician, the couple wasn't wealthy. When the House speaker received a $300,000 fine from the House ethics committee in 1997 for financial improprieties, Gingrich said she was insistent that the money not come from the couple's personal bank account because they didn't have it. Then-U.S. Sen. Bob Dole lent Gingrich the money to pay the fine.


"One of the misconceptions about politics is that congressmen are rich," she said. "If you look at the salary and that you have to live in two places and there's a lot of travel and activity, you add it up and the truth is most congressmen, unless they go in with money, don't have a lot of it. Many times the money they make doesn't stretch that far."

Gingrich said she was shocked when her husband called her at her mother's Leetonia home on Mother's Day 1999 to tell her that he wanted a divorce and that he was having an affair with a congressional aide.

That came only a few months after doctors told her she could have multiple sclerosis. (Gingrich left his first wife in 1981 after it was discovered she had cancer.)

"I was told that I wasn't supposed to be under any stress because of my condition," she said. "It wasn't great timing. It was not an easy divorce. I had a fight on my hands."

The medical condition was determined to be a single occurrence, and Gingrich said doctors told her last year that it was gone.

Gingrich has spent the past three years working with co-authors on her memoirs. The book is expected to be published by the end of the year.

She still returns to Leetonia a few times a year to visit family and friends. "I like to come back here; it's where I grew up," she said. "It's a very down-home area and friendly. I brag about it to everybody."

Copyright © 2003 The Vindicator