These two found love on the cam­paign trail

The Washington Post Sunday - - ON LOVE - BY ME­GAN MCDONOUGH me­gan.mcdonough@wash­post.com

You can never pre­dict what’s go­ing to hap­pen daily, or even hourly, while on the cam­paign trail. For NBC News po­lit­i­cal re­porter Alexan­dra “Alex” Moe, life on the road work­ing the 2012 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary cam­paign in­volved 20-hour work­days, end­less dead­lines and short nights of sleep in lonely, non­de­script ho­tel rooms.

It cer­tainly doesn’t sound like the recipe for ro­mance. But the weeks lead­ing up to the Iowa cau­cuses proved the per­fect set­ting for the start of Alex’s re­la­tion­ship with Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive Derek Flow­ers.

When Alex, a Mary­land na­tive and Univer­sity of Mary­land grad­u­ate, was as­signed to cover Newt Gin­grich’s cam­paign, she knew very lit­tle about the Hawk­eye State. She was the youngest NBC po­lit­i­cal em­bed re­porter on the trail and had never lived out­side the Belt­way.

“I didn’t even think they had Star­bucks. That’s how naive I was back then,” she ad­mits.

Derek, on the other hand, was born in Cre­ston, Iowa, and had been in­volved in state pol­i­tics since he was an un­der­grad­u­ate at Iowa State Univer­sity. He went to Des Moines in 2006 to work as a staffer on Mitt Rom­ney’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, and later pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, and re­turned in 2011 as a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant.

Once Alex ar­rived in Iowa in July 2011, their paths crossed quickly and of­ten, as they ran in the same po­lit­i­cal cir­cles and main­tained mu­tual friends. But they weren’t for­mally in­tro­duced un­til a de­bate watch party in mid-Oc­to­ber. Af­ter­ward, they joined friends at a lo­cal bar, where they shared a ta­ble and bonded over drinks.

Im­pressed by their repar­tee and Alex’s ebul­lient per­son­al­ity, Derek asked a friend for her con­tact in­for­ma­tion. The shared ac­quain­tance as­sumed it was for pro­fes­sional, not per­sonal, rea­sons and copied Alex on his re­ply. Derek was mor­ti­fied.

It was a for­tu­itous mis­take, how­ever: Alex be­gan invit­ing Derek to trivia nights and house par­ties. A friend­ship quickly formed and, two weeks be­fore the Iowa cau­cuses, Derek asked her to din­ner.

Time was of the essence, and Alex, ever the jour­nal­ist, wasted no time de­ter­min­ing their com­pat­i­bil­ity. She pep­pered him with ques­tions.

It “was like fill­ing out a Match.com on­line pro­file in per­son,” Derek says jok­ingly. “It was ev­ery­thing from ‘What’s your dream va­ca­tion?’ to ‘Would you con­sider your­self a clean per­son?’ ”

At the end of the evening, Alex asked Derek point-blank whether he con­sid­ered it a date.

“Did you want it to be?” he replied. She did.

And as the 2012 pri­mary cam­paign heated up, so did the cou­ple’s bud­ding re­la­tion­ship. They kept in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ar­ranged dates in 12 states. They would of­ten drive hours out of their way just to meet for din­ner.

“It was al­ways a day, never longer,” says Derek, who is now a con­sul­tant for the D.C.-based pub­lic-af­fairs ad­vo­cacy firm Wood­berry As­so­ci­ates.

Af­ter Elec­tion Day in Novem­ber 2012, the cou­ple cel­e­brated with a week-long va­ca­tion in Costa Rica. But just as the dust be­gan to set­tle, Alex was of- fered an as­so­ci­ate pro­ducer po­si­tion in NBC’s New York of­fice. Both re­al­ized the op­por­tu­nity was too good to pass up and agreed to con­tinue dat­ing long-dis­tance.

At first, the com­mute was man­age­able — Derek split his time be­tween the District and Iowa, and New York was an easy bus ride from Wash­ing­ton. But once Derek joined the Sen­ate cam­paign of Iowa Repub­li­can Joni Ernst, he be­gan spend­ing more time in Iowa, and things got rocky.

“There were times when . . . we wouldn’t see each other for a month,” Alex says.

Long sep­a­ra­tions, cou­pled with their stress­ful jobs, strained the re­la­tion­ship. In Jan­uary 2014, they broke up. Dur­ing their time apart, how­ever, they kept busy: Alex cov­ered break­ing news, in­clud­ing the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing, while Derek be­came a cam­paign man­ager of Ernst’s suc­cess­ful Sen­ate run.

The break proved short­lived. Derek spot­ted Alex’s name on a press list for a po­lit­i­cal event in Cedar Rapids in June and de­cided to drive two hours from Des Moines to see her. Ca­sual drinks segued into five hours of con­ver­sa­tion, and, by the end of the night, they both were de­ter­mined to make their re­la­tion­ship work.

“I knew how much fun we al­ways had to­gether, how much we re­spected each other and how much, even when we were apart, I al­ways wanted to be with him,” Alex says.

She moved to Wash­ing­ton in Septem­ber 2014, and they bought a house on Capi­tol Hill in Oc­to­ber 2015. Derek con­tin­ues to split his time be­tween Des Moines and Wash­ing­ton, while Alex cov­ers the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives as an NBC pro­ducer.

With strong en­cour­age­ment from fam­ily, friends, col­leagues and even some politi­cians, Derek planned to pro­pose to Alex in April 2016. But pol­i­tics got in the way again — Alex was busy cov­er­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign — and it took Derek three at­tempts to ul­ti­mately pop the ques­tion.

His first try was thwarted af­ter he dis­cov­ered Alex had to be up at 6 a.m. the next morn­ing for a flight, which would un­der­mine the pos­si­bil­ity of any late-night cel­e­bra­tions. The sec­ond plan was de­railed by Alex’s last-minute trip to Philadel­phia with An­drea Mitchell to in­ter­view then-can­di­date Sen. Bernie San­ders.

Luck­ily, the third time was the charm, and, on April 22, he dropped to a knee and pro­posed at the lower Sen­ate Park on the way to din­ner at Char­lie Palmer Steak. She said yes.

“It was one of those things that I al­ways knew was com­ing, but you never know how,” Alex said. “I was just so happy. It was awe­some . ... Every­one’s re­ac­tion was like, ‘Fi­nally! It’s about time!’ ”

For Alex, pol­i­tics and plan­ning a wed­ding proved strange bed­fel­lows, but she didn’t let the de­mands of an elec­tion year in­ter­fere.

“I plan things for a liv­ing,” she says. “The fun part, for me, was tak­ing a break [from it] and work­ing on wed­ding stuff.”

On Dec. 10, 102 guests — in­clud­ing such me­dia per­son­al­i­ties as Mitchell, Luke Russert and Katy Tur — gath­ered on the beach at Marco Is­land, Fla., to watch Alex, 29, and Derek, 33, tie the knot. Later, as dark­ness de­scended and the re­cep­tion was well un­der­way at the Marco Beach Ocean Re­sort, the bride sur­prised her guests — and un­sus­pect­ing groom — with a fire­works dis­play.

“His face was price­less,” Alex says. “I wasn’t sure how it was go­ing to go off — lit­er­ally — but it was very cool.”

The cou­ple cel­e­brated five years to­gether dur­ing their two-week hon­ey­moon in the Hawai­ian Is­lands. When asked where they hoped to be five years from now, Alex replied, hope­fully “hav­ing fun and look­ing for a new ad­ven­ture, whether it’s jobs, or travel, or fam­ily.”

“I don’t think ei­ther of us re­ally have much to com­plain about. We’re both pretty darn happy,” Derek chimed in. “Stay­ing like this for­ever would be fan­tas­tic.”

“I knew how much fun we al­ways had to­gether, how much we re­spected each other and how much, even when we were apart, I al­ways wanted to be with him.” — ALEX MOE

PHO­TOS BY FOREVERY MO­MENT

Alex Moe, 29, and Derek Flow­ers, 33, were mar­ried Dec. 10 on Florida’s Marco Is­land. They were in­tro­duced in Iowa at a de­bate watch party in Oc­to­ber 2011. At the time, Alex was a cam­paign re­porter for NBC News and Derek was a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant.

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