No one who knows Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid from afar would ever describe him as a romantic.
But a little known driving force for the often gruff and impolitic Nevada Democrat is his 60-year love affair with his wife.
Reid met Landra Gould when he was a junior in high school, and she was a sophomore.
When I asked about Landra during an interview, the usually poker-faced Reid immediately opened up.
“She’s never changed. She’s 74 years old. She could win a beauty contest today. She is the nicest person. She has been a wonderful mother, a terrific wife to me. I wish there was a way I could express to everyone how fortunate I am,” said Reid.
In many ways Reid’s love story mirrors the rest of his Steinbeck-like life history. He was the boy with nothing from no-where whom her father didn’t want her anywhere near.
Once when he went to pick her up for a date, Landra’s father was so opposed to it, and Reid was so determined, the former boxer got into a fist fight with the man. That’s right: he punched his future father in law in the face.
Part of the problem was that she was Jewish, and he – from a truck stop of a town with only brothels and gambling and nothing else – had no religion.
“As our relationship built, her parents came to the realization that it could be something serious and it was a very difficult time, the last few years of courtship, because they of course wanted her to meet somebody Jewish,” Reid told me in 2006, during an interview in his hometown of Searchlight, Nevada.
The two eloped during college, and finally her parents came around to accepting him.
“They said we did everything we could to stop the two of you … we’re going to do everything we can to make your lives a success, and they were wonderful,” Reid told me.
Reid and Landra decided to convert to Mormonism, but they always kept a “Mezuzah” on the door to their home, as is the custom in Judaism and, until Landra’s parents died, they always celebrated major Jewish holidays, like Passover, as a family.
As they raised five children and Reid rose through the political ranks in Nevada and in the U.S. Senate, the two have rarely been apart.
In fact while many lawmakers like to socialize and hobnob with other powerful people, Reid almost never did. He always preferred to stay home and have a quiet night with Landra.
Those who know her call her elegant – always beautifully dressed – and a quiet force behind the complicated man from Searchlight, who has served as a constant reminder to Reid of where he came from.
“I am a blessed man to have this 5 foot tall woman with me all these years,” said Reid.