Douglas Emhoff: America’s First “Second Gentleman”

Both in their 40s, Emhoff, divorced, and Harris, single, met on a date arranged in 2013 by Harris’s best friend, Chrisette Hudlin, a public relations consultant. The date was set up by text, and then the two met for dinner the next night. In her memoir, The Truths We Hold, Harris has written how difficult it was as a public figure to have a normal dating life. (When she met Emhoff, she was the attorney general of California.) “I knew that if I brought a man with me to an event, people would immediately start to speculate about our relationship,” Harris wrote. “I also knew that single women in politics are viewed differently than single men. We don’t get the same latitude when it comes to our social lives.” Harris was attorney general of California at the time, and Emhoff was practicing law as a managing director for the West Coast branch of Venable LLP, handling clients in the entertainment industry with a focus on trademark disputes and intellectual property.

 

Harris and Emhoff married a year later. It was Harris’ first marriage and Emhoff’s second. 

He was divorced with two young kids, sharing custody with his first wife, Kerstin. Harris has spoken frequently of being embraced by both her new stepchildren and Emhoff’s former wife, and the easy relationship of their blended family. His children are in their 20s and call Harris “Momala,” a play on her name and a Yiddish word for “little mother. 

 

When Harris began her term in the U.S. Senate in 2017, Emhoff moved to DLA Piper, which had a presence in Washington and Los Angeles, where Harris and Emhoff split their time. More recently, he’s represented clients including a production company and a prominent wine maker. 

 

Emhoff has said he will leave his private law practice by Inauguration Day to focus on his role at the White House. “I want more women in office, and I want more partners, whoever their partner is, to support them and to provide an opportunity and an environment for success,” Emhoff said in an October interview with the digital site NowThis News. 

 

Emhoff’s decision to support his wife offered an early test of how a Biden administration would avoid potential ethical issues. While Emhoff is not a lobbyist, the firm has a large presence lobbying the federal government on behalf of clients including Comcast, Raytheon and the government of Puerto Rico. He took a leave of absence from the firm in August when Biden chose Harris, a U.S. senator from California, as his running mate.

 

Before Harris’s first presidential debate, Emhoff posted a picture of the two of them, with the caption:” Dear @Harris: I love you, I believe in you, and I’m so proud of you. The whole country is going to see what I get to see everyday. You are amazing.” 

 

 

Emhoff embraced his role as a political surrogate during the campaign. He will be the first Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president, and he was a prominent liaison to Jewish groups and donors.  “Jewish husbands of more impressive women – this is our moment,” tweeted the journalist Ben Hartman, “Big day for America’s hot Jewish male community,” wrote the New York contributor Eric Levitz. 

 

He also developed a close friendship with Jill Biden, a former second lady, and the two campaigned together frequently in states including Iowa and New Hampshire. Jill Biden has said she wants to keep teaching at a community college, as she did when Joe Biden was the vice president.