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Once Campaign Rivals, Now Partners for Life

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Robert Richardson Flaherty Jr. and Carla Susanne Frank were on their way to work one morning in April 2015 when they recognized each other on a Metro train at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington. Both were headed to jobs at the Democratic National Committee.

Although their teams didn’t interact — he was in communications, she in finance — they had seen each other around the office. Mr. Flaherty had a daily meeting that took place near Ms. Frank’s desk.

They had a brief conversation on the train that day, but didn’t talk again until they saw each other at a mutual friend’s birthday party nearly two years later, in January 2017. Since they were in similar circles and had friends in common, she suggested that they “get slightly tipsy and become best friends,” he recalled. So, a few days later, they went to Kingfisher, a bar in Washington, where they had popcorn and drinks until closing.

The following morning, Mr. Flaherty caught Ms. Frank lurking on his Instagram page. “I knew it went well because she accidentally liked an Instagram photo of mine from like, seven years before,” he said. “I was like, ‘aha!’”

The two started spending time together afterward with mutual friends, and in Mr. Flaherty’s neighborhood, Columbia Heights.

“We spent a lot of time sitting on his landlord’s stoop, drinking wine,” Ms. Frank said. “This neighborhood is important to us because four years later, we bought a house two doors down.”

They both shuffled around numerous jobs in the political field in the months after their first date, but what remained constant was the comfort that they found in each other.

“It was a stable, easy connection at a time when the world was so weird,” Ms. Frank said.

In January 2019, Ms. Frank moved to Philadelphia to work on the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign, while Mr. Flaherty moved to El Paso, Texas, to work on Beto O’Rourke’s campaign.

“Doing long distance between two rival presidential campaigns is not a pleasant experience,” he said.

But after Mr. O’Rourke dropped out of the race in November 2019, Mr. Flaherty accepted a role with the Biden campaign and moved into her studio apartment in Philadelphia. Ms. Frank, 31, was director of strategic planning for the campaign, and Mr. Flaherty, also 31, was the digital director.

“The kitchen table and the bathroom were our two different work spaces, so we’d alternate who had to take phone calls sitting on the toilet, with the laptop up on the sink,” she said.

In July 2020, the couple moved back to Washington, and together kept working on the Biden campaign from an apartment in Logan Circle. In May 2021, they bought their home in Columbia Heights. Ms. Frank, who is from Bellevue, Wash., graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in government. Mr. Flaherty, from North Reading, Mass., graduated from Ithaca College with a dual degree in television-radio and politics.

He is currently a deputy assistant to the president and director of digital strategy at the White House. She is a special assistant to the president and deputy political director, also at the White House.

The week that they moved into their home, he got her parents’ blessing to marry, and a few months later, they handed him the family diamond that he made into a ring and used to propose in September 2021.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

Mr. Flaherty’s proposal plan involved several friends and family members flying into town to be present for the moment at Willowcroft Farm Vineyards in Leesburg, Va., where they hid in a loft. Mr. Flaherty orchestrated a surprise wine tour, and he proposed in the vineyard.

“The very first thing she says is, ‘My parents are here, right?,’” Mr. Flaherty recalled, after which they came out of hiding. They had a celebration at the vineyard, followed by a dinner at their home with a private chef.

On Nov. 19, the couple wed at Union Station. Donald Frank, a retired Presbyterian minister, officiated. Deborah Reichmann, an independent rabbi, oversaw a ketubah ceremony earlier in the day.

The Hudson Horns, an 11-piece brass band, played throughout the night, including at the end of the reception when they started a singalong to “Hey Jude,” by the Beatles.

“The band pulled us up onstage to have us lead it,” Mr. Flaherty said. “It was really magical.”



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