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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson get engaged via Washington Post

To say that Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson rolled out their relationship carefully is an understatement. Last winter, the D.C. schools chief declined to say whether she and the mayor of Sacramento -- a longtime friend and close political ally -- were dating.

Not even after we saw them holding hands during the inauguration! ("I don't comment on my personal life," she said at the time.)

But seems as though they're officially a couple now. In fact, she confirmed for us, they're engaged.

Rhee, 39, spoke Wednesday night at a Democrats for Education Reform/DC School Reform Now event downtown, and a pretty sparkly thing on her left hand caught the eye of more than one audience member. Seems fitting, since this is a relationship we've largely followed via sightings of the two at various policy-wonk confabs.

They seem to have bonded over education reform. Johnson, 43, is a former NBA star who transitioned into politics as the founder of a charter school -- Rhee served on its board -- before winning his first race last year to become mayor of his home town. Rhee also served on his transition team.

When she was tapped by Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2007 to become schools chancellor, Johnson testified at her confirmation hearing. (Rhee left the board of his St. Hope Academy after starting her job here.)

What next? It's the obvious question for any bicoastal power couple, especially with both careers so closely tied to separate cities. Rhee, who is divorced with two kids, has had a tumultuous couple of months, at odds with D.C. Council members and teachers over her budget cuts and firing of nearly 400 staffers. The never-married Johnson, meanwhile, is still in the first year as mayor and dealing with the drip-drip-drip of one of those annoying municipal scandals (a city employee who allegedly handed out illegal permits to developers).

But Rhee told us she's not leaving D.C. They plan on a long engagement -- no wedding date set, and none envisioned in the near term -- and will keep this a commuter relationship for a while.


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