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‘Campaign Widows’ Explores Life of a Staffer’s Significant Other

Aimee Agresti’s new novel gives a voice to spouses during election season

Aimee Agresti, author of “Campaign Widows,” says she put a little of herself in all the characters. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
Aimee Agresti, author of “Campaign Widows,” says she put a little of herself in all the characters. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Every election season, some Washingtonians head for the campaign trail while their significant others remain in the city. Author Aimee Agresti has a name for this niche population left behind: campaign widows.

That’s also the name of her new novel, out on May 22, that explores how couples, in different phases of their relationships, cope with election season.

Agresti, 41, has been a campaign widow three times when her husband, who spent much of his career in Senate communications, worked on congressional races. 

“This book is about unlikely friendships and I feel like that’s something you can find here a lot — people just sort of thrown together,” she said.

Agresti initially didn’t know there were others like her. 

“This sort of microcosm of people who are left behind in D.C. when their significant others go out on the trail, there are so many people who experience that in Washington and I never knew that.”

While the release of “Campaign Widows” is timely given the upcoming midterms, Agresti called it an “escapist book” that non-politicos would enjoy.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the political world that we’re living in right now,” she said. “There aren’t even political parties in the book. I never mention them on purpose. I wanted to make it a universal kind of book. So anyone who is sick of watching the news, this is where you should go. It’s a safe place.”

UNITED STATES - MAY 2: Aimee Agresti, author of 'Campaign Widows,’ speaks with Roll Call about her real life experiences as the wife of someone who works in politics and how that influenced her new fictional book. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
Agresti’s new novel is out May 22. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Agresti said there’s a bit of herself in all five campaign widows featured in the novel.

The story unfolds over the course of a presidential campaign. Cady has just moved to D.C. before her fiancé leaves to work for a candidate on the trail. She meets other campaign widows while working on a local TV news show.

There’s Birdie, a Georgetown socialite; Reagan, a young mother and former speechwriter; and Jay, a website editor. All have partners away campaigning, as does Madison, whose husband is running for president.

How each household copes with the instability of election season makes for interesting drama as the campaign widows all find their relationships becoming increasingly difficult.

Agresti first got the idea for the novel when her husband worked on former Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s 2002 re-election campaign in Louisiana.

“I had all these scary ideas of what would happen on a campaign. It’s some kind of camp and everybody’s so excited and they’re up all night and they’re doing crazy things. I thought it was like a spring break. I had all these crazy fears,” she said. “Luckily, none of that really happened.”

“I kind of channeled all of the crazy fears into the book and tried to create characters that were all at crossroads in their relationships and show how the campaign could really shake it up even more,” she said.

Agresti lives in the D.C. area with her two young children and husband, who currently works for Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin as communications director on the Small Business Committee. The novel is interspersed with tidbits about her life as a local, including references to her favorite restaurants and neighborhoods.

“I love D.C., so I feel like the book is kind of a love letter to D.C.,” she said.  

Join Agresti for a release event for “Campaign Widows” on May 21 at 7 p.m. at 600 H St. NE.

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