Right at home

SeanPatrickF

You can see Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney’s passion for politics and government in the numbers.

Maloney, sworn in last month to a second term as U.S. representative for the 18th Congressional District, has had 10 pieces of legislation signed into law, including bills supporting disabled veterans, Hudson Valley farmers and railroad safety.

He’s co-sponsored 274 bills, authored 35 and had 15 pass the House, all while casting 1,205 votes, which represented a 98-percent attendance record.

So when his cell phone rings on Capitol Hill, it’s probably some powerful Congressman or committee member, right?

Well, not always for Congressman Dad.

“They’re not shy,” Sean says of daughters Essie, 12, and Daley 14. “They’ll call or text me. I have a cell phone like everybody else. I’ll find myself in a meeting. I’ll get a call….”

“It’s usually after I’ve said, ‘No,’” Randy interjects.

Owner of The Rural Connection, Randy Florke is as passionate about finding country houses for city residents as Sean is about politics. He also offers urban transplants renovation, restoration and interior design services.

Together for 22 years – they met in New York City on May 23, 1992 – the handsome pair married on June 21 last year not far from the Cold Spring home the family also shares with son Jesus, 25. Small-town life appeals to the couple. (Randy, author of “Restore, Recycle, Repurpose: Create a Beautiful Home,” grew up on a farm in Cherokee, Iowa; Sean, in Hanover, N.H.)

They’re the typical modern family, juggling two careers and balancing suburban life with a high profile in the nation’s capital, except for one thing…

They seem to be better at it.

••••••••

Indeed, the two men look relaxed as I sit down to talk with them just a couple hours before they catch a flight to D.C. for the annual White House Christmas party and congressional ball.

Do those miles between Washington and home make life difficult?

“It’s an adjustment,” Randy says. “It’s never easy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Congress or not. If you’re spending four days a week in a separate city, it’s challenging. You just have to be organized. The truth is kids don’t really notice their parents anyway. I think they largely ignore us (he chuckles), so I don’t know if they really notice.”

“I don’t have a personal life in Washington,” adds Sean, who has a small apartment a couple blocks from the Capitol. “I try to get back as soon as possible. And Randy is always almost here, so Randy is bearing the lion’s share of the parental responsibilities during the week.”

Sean is down in Washington Mondays through Thursdays. “We have a saying on Friday that there’s only two more working days ’til Monday,” he jokes, referring to the work that he does in the district on his alleged days off.

Sean entered politics as a volunteer for the first presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. After Clinton’s win, Sean served as a senior adviser and White House staff secretary. After Clinton’s term ended, Sean was first deputy secretary to Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.

But when Sean is home, he joins Randy to walk the girls down the driveway to wait for the morning school bus. That’s usually followed by a 6-mile run by the couple along the hilly roads surrounding their home.

Randy does the “kids’ stuff” Mondays through Thursdays.

“It’s one of the advantages of working for myself,” he says of weaving his work schedule into the soccer, basketball and horseback riding lessons.

“I have to have some flexibility in my schedule. I work and then …” Sean interrupts: “Next Friday, there will be a birthday party for 12 kids at the bowling alley. Randy takes the lead on organizing that stuff. We make a priority of that.”

Everybody’s birthday is coming up, but Essie’s is the first one in the series.

“She says, ‘No parents.’ I guess that excludes you, too,” Randy says.

••••••••

Putting their children, all adopted, first has been foremost for both men.

Sean says, “We always made the critical things a priority. So even when I was working at the White House (for Clinton), and Jesus was there for part of the time going to school, he would play Little League baseball and soccer. I made sure I would go to all of the games. And we walk the kids to the bus every morning and, as Randy points out, kids at that age only want so much of you. They want to know you’re there, but they often want to be independent as well. But on the important things like getting a Christmas tree or birthday parties or making sure the schoolwork is done, we’ve just made it a priority. And it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you know what your priorities are.”

The two men agree that their children have an interesting mix of being different as well as privileged.

Sometimes they get treated like the children of a congressman and sometimes “they are aware that we have an unconventional family. That we’re diverse, that not everybody thinks our family is, um, a wonderful idea,” Sean says. One day the girls could be attending events in Washington, like Sean re-taking the oath of office in January, or “dealing with folks who might not understand the contours of our family.”

Do you two still encounter that today?

Both: “Sure, sure.”

“It’s obviously gotten better,” he says. “The laws changing are part of a very positive trend. And the district has now elected me twice.” (Sean’s reelection followed a tightly fought campaign with the former congresswoman from whom he initially wrested the seat.)

“Our experience with the Hudson Valley is people are very tolerant and very open-minded and very welcoming,” he adds.”But we live in a country where we’re still struggling with making sure everybody is being treated equally under the law, whether its race or sexual orientation or gender. We still struggle with creating real equality in this country. But we’ve made enormous progress and obviously no one like me has ever been elected to Congress before from the state of New York. So we’re walking proof that New York is a tolerant and welcoming place.  … I’d say we deal with very little negative stuff based on who we are. But when you’re a parent, it concerns you.”

“I feel we’ve experienced very little negative thinking and the kids, too,” Randy says. “It’s been a largely positive experience.  I think in the height of the election, sometimes there’s rhetoric they (the children) hear or see. And even kids will translate some of that rhetoric to them.”

••••••••

“It’s a free country. A lot of that comes with the territory. It’s not like I’m the only guy in public life who gets criticized,” Sean says.

“Sometimes our ears go up when some of the criticism around our wedding, for example, by my opponent seemed to be a little too focused on calling it extravagant or elaborate… We got married in a church (St. Mary-in-the-Highlands) and had a reception in our home. We heard the ripples out there on the fringes. This was an unusual event and so maybe it’s not that surprising. But Randy’s right. The overwhelming number of people have been incredibly welcoming and open to us.”

Randy says, “And I think that what they realize is that we have way more in common than we do in differences. Like we have the same issues with Common Core and the same issues with other things that are concerning to them.”

And how did the wedding go?

Sean: “It was the best day of our lives. A 22-year engagement. We’ve survived six months of marriage.”

“Barely,” quipped Randy.

Do you guys finish each other sentences?

Randy: “Sometimes.”

“He’s always getting it wrong,” teased Sean.

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