Governor, first lady living separately after 23 years of marriage

Premier political couple declines to give reasons for sudden separation

July 28, 2000|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his wife and political partner, Frances, are living apart, apparently because of some undisclosed discord in one of Maryland's most celebrated marriages.

"For several days, Mrs. Glendening has been living in their University Park home, and Mr. Glendening, the governor, has been spending his time at Government House," Michael Morrill, the governor's communications director, said yesterday.

Morrill said neither wanted to comment on the reasons for their parting, but he stressed that it has not affected their official activities.

"They are each fulfilling all of their public duties, and there is no change to their schedules," he said.

Mrs. Glendening was host for an arts awards ceremony at Government House in Annapolis on Wednesday night, while the governor attended a political fund-raiser in Washington as scheduled, Morrill noted.

Glendening, 58, in his second four-year term, has been married for 23 years to the former Frances Hughes, 49, a legal and policy adviser with the Federal Election Commission. They have one son, Raymond, who is a college student.

Mrs. Glendening has been one of the governor's most trusted advisers throughout his political career, from the Hyattsville City Council through 12 years as Prince George's County executive to the State House in Annapolis.

She helped form her husband's first-term administration, though she has since focused on more traditional first-lady issues such as promoting the arts and women's history.

The Glendenings have kept their family home in University Park while residing part time at Government House, the governor's mansion on State Circle.

Glendening and his wife have displayed affection for one another openly in the past. He interrupted his first inaugural speech in 1995 and embraced her as "The Wind Beneath My Wings" was sung.

The governor has made a point of introducing Mrs. Glendening whenever she accompanies him on official or ceremonial business. He did so most recently nearly three weeks ago when the couple traveled to State College, Pa., where he became chairman of the National Governors Association.

Glendening has since journeyed without his wife to a meeting of the National Association of Counties in Charlotte, N.C. Morrill said Mrs. Glendening had not been expected to go on that trip.

Friends expressed shock and dismay over the apparent rift, noting that the couple has seemed to have an unusually strong and cooperative relationship.`They're a great partnership," said Lance W. Billingsley, a Prince George's County lawyer and longtime friend of both.

"Parris would not be governor, and would not be governing the way he is, without Francie's help," Billingsley said. The governor has also supported his wife's work as first lady, he added.

Billingsley, a University System of Maryland regent who traveled with the couple on an official visit to Europe in May, said he was unaware of any serious differences between the two.

"Marriage is not a straight line, it's a series of hills and valleys," he said.

"I am just surprised and sad and obviously praying that this is something that will just be a small blip on the radar screen that they will overcome," Billingsley said.

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