There won’t be a lot of fanfare when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and her fiancé, Thomas Daffron, tie the knot next month in her home state. In fact, the exact date and time—and even the location—of the wedding are well-kept secrets on Capitol Hill.
The only thing known for sure is that Collins and Daffron will exchange vows during the August recess because the couple didn’t want to risk missing their big day due to a late Senate schedule.
“If they hold you over a couple of days, we’ll miss our wedding,” Daffron says. “We figured August is pretty safe.”
Daffron, 73, doesn’t mind working around a government schedule. Like his 59-year-old bride-to-be, he is a veteran of politics, having served as chief of staff to three senators. The first was former Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, in whose office Daffron and Collins first met when the now three-term senator joined Cohen’s staff as an intern in 1974.
The two remained friends through 12 years of service to Cohen and afterward, as Collins became a state regulator in Maine in 1987 and deputy state treasurer in Massachusetts in 1993.
When Collins decided to run for governor of Maine in 1994, Daffron volunteered to consult; she won an eight-way Republican primary—becoming the first woman nominated for governor in the Pine Tree State—but lost the general election. Daffron then worked on all three of Collins’s successful Senate races, starting in 1996.
The couple became engaged after Christmas. Daffron says the engagement was more a decision that “it’s time to go ahead and get married,” rather than a dramatic event involving strewn rose petals.
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They have known each other for 38 years, but only began dating a couple of years ago—Daffron hesitates about the day or month of their first date. “It’s just kind of hard to know when it went from friendship to something more,” he says, “when we started going to dinner without talking about the most recent polls.”
Beyond consulting on numerous campaigns, including the presidential run by former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., in 1999, Daffron served as chief of staff for Cohen, for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and for then-Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn. He is now the chief operating officer for the Jefferson Consulting Group.
With an illustrious political career and four years as chief operating officer for the Baltimore Orioles, Daffron has been able to focus on his two loves besides Collins: baseball and politics. “That’s one of those serendipitous things that you never think is going to happen,” he says.
He rarely makes it to see a baseball game anymore in Maryland. But he says it’s not necessary for him to see so many games now, after having gone to about 324 of them in four years during his time with the Orioles. Collins has yet to enjoy America’s pastime with him at the ballpark, as it can be difficult to find time away from her Senate responsibilities. Just this month, she logged her 5,000th consecutive vote.
When the couple does find time to escape, they make their way to Collins’s cabin north of Bangor, Maine, for swimming, kayaking, cookouts, and reading.
“We probably ought to work a little harder at having more recreation and less work,” Daffron says. “Most people in Washington don’t have enough hobbies. You spend your weekends catching up on the necessities of life.”
Daffron’s admiration of Collins is evident. He describes her as funny, smart, ambitious, and a human encyclopedia of legislative knowledge. He says it takes an hour to get through a grocery store in her hometown of Caribou because everyone stops to say hello.
“She’s unpretentious,” he says. “I used to say, with some people you have to say, ‘He’s a nice person, for a senator.’ She’s just a nice person, period.”
This article appears in the July 17, 2012, edition of NJ Daily.