Doug Emhoff wasn’t always this way. He wasn’t always the type to go around talking about how much he loves his wife, let alone quit his high-powered job to travel the country talking about how much he loves his wife.
In his first marriage, Doug Emhoff was more likely to throw himself into his work as a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer, play golf, sit on a couch, and watch sports on TV. A guy, devoting billable hours to a fight over the origins of the Taco Bell Chihuahua, otherwise not out to change the world.
His signature piece of life advice, still ringing in the ears of Cole and Ella, his two 20-something children named after Coltrane and Fitzgerald, is, naturally, about sports, any sport.
Emhoff, 56, is now showing the deftly supportive soft touch of a man in a second marriage of epic proportions. With Sen. Kamala Harris set to assume the vice presidency — the first woman, Black, and Asian American to do so — her husband, Doug, is about to take on his own place in history.
Emhoff will become the nation’s first second gentleman, and, not for nothing, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president.
The son of Barb and Mike, a shoe designer, Emhoff was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. When he was still in high school, the Emhoffs decamped to the West Coast, where he later met then-Attorney General Harris, and the rest is Naval Observatory history.
“It’s an amazing transformation for all of us to watch,” said Los Angeles film producer Kerstin Emhoff, his ex-wife and mother of his children, who is finding her own unique footing in this emerging happily blended extended vice presidential family tableau. “He’s not the political guy. He’s just Doug.”
Cue the jokes about supportive Jewish husbands of more accomplished women — this is, perhaps, their moment, as more than a few have tweeted about, but Emhoff inhabits the role without irony or shtick. (Though Kamala cracked up a Manhattan audience with her imitation of her mother-in-law’s New Jersey-by-way-of-Brooklyn accent.)
Emhoff is all in. “My wife, I love her, I do,” he said, more than once, speaking at a defunct farm market in Doylestown, Pa., the day before Election Day, another in a series of less-than-glamorous places the campaign sent him.
Emhoff is still good friends with his ex, Kerstin, who is close friends with Kamala, who, in turn, is adored by her stepchildren, who call her “Momala,” which also works, for anyone trying to game out Emhoff’s Jewishness, as a play on Mamele, a tried-and-true Yiddish term of endearment. (On this topic, Kerstin can attest: Emhoff is a bagels-and-lox guy, and herring. Case closed.)
“They make it appear so normal because that’s who they are,” said Alex Weingarten, a former law partner and friend of 17 years. “This is not a contrived situation.”
Emhoff took a leave from DLA Piper to campaign full time, and, according to a Biden-Harris spokesperson, “is not resuming his private law practice at the firm.” Emhoff was not made available for an interview for this story.
He has talked about building a second gentleman platform helping people access legal services, or focusing on pro bono work.
Friends and family think he will be a natural in the traditionally domesticated role, even though he’s admittedly more sous to Kamala’s chef, more Fantasy Sports than Rent the Runway.
“He’s not that guy,” who will suddenly be, as they say, measuring drapes, said Kerstin Emhoff, from Los Angeles, where she is head of the production company Prettybird. “That’s never been his role.”