Monday, February 7, 2011

Politics makes strange bedfellows

At a time when Barack Obama is pleading for civility in public discourse, Marcella Munro and Brad Zubyk are living proof that you can disagree about politics and still be friends.
You can also live together, sleep together, forget to put the toilet seat down, squeeze the toothpaste tube the wrong way -- and still argue about who should be premier without getting angry.
Meet British Columbia's most contrarian political power couple -- two veterans of the war rooms who are now, quite literally, sleeping with the enemy.
He is a B.C. Liberal, working with leadership candidate Christy Clark. She is a New Democrat, working with leadership hopeful Mike Farnworth.
And their five-year-old common-law marriage is as strong as ever -- even if there is a little friendly bickering in the breakfast nook once in a while.
"Our friends do find it a little unusual and we hear a lot of jokes about it," said Munro, who works for a Vancouver government-relations company when she's not coaching NDP politicians about sound bites and policy points.
"Every couple have arguments -- ours just sometimes happen to be about political strategy. But if we have a little momentary tension, we always laugh it off."
Zubyk agrees -- and says their fiercest disagreements aren't about politics anyway.
"We probably have more friction about how much football I watch on Sundays than we do about politics," said Zubyk, also a longtime political and government-relations consultant.
That could change. It's the sport of politics that consumes their lives now. And with Farnworth and Clark both considered front-runners for the leaderships of their parties, Zubyk and Munro are on opposite sides of a political battle for the ages.
"They could both win -- we could be in competing war rooms for a while," Munro said. "Luckily, we have two bedrooms in our condo."
No, not a separate sleeping area in case one combatant gets banished from the master bed. The second bedroom is used as a home office -- or "the cone of silence" as Zubyk calls it.
"If we're at home, and one of us gets a political phone call, you simply get up and go into the separate room for a private talk," Zubyk explains. "The walls are well-insulated -- I can't hear her secrets and she can't hear mine."
Munro calls it the "firewall" in their home. "We know when to take a time out," she said. "And if there is sometimes a little tension, we defuse things with humour. No one can make me laugh like Brad."
Just call them B.C.'s version of James Carville and Mary Matalin. (He was Bill Clinton's political mastermind. She worked for George Bush and Dick Cheney. And their marriage survived it all.)
How did these strange political bedfellows hook up? It started in the 2005 election, when both worked for the same team.
"We met in the NDP war room," said Munro. "I was the head of client services for Carole James, he was head of media liaison and sat five seats away. There was chemistry right away."

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