Karen Johnson, Karl Rove’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts

Karl Rove and Wife Karen Johnson

PaperCity Magazine Karl Rove and Wife Karen Johnson at an event in 2018.

Karl Rove is an American Republican political contributor and analyst who is also the former Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush. After leaving the White House, Rove became a political contributor for Fox News, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal and wrote a couple of books.

He married Karen Johnson in June 2012 in Austin Texas, where they have a house. Johnson is a lobbyist, but she has remained largely out of the public eye.

Here’s what you need to know about Karen Johnson, Karl Rove’s wife:


1. Karen Johnson Is Rove’s Third Wife

Karl Rove was first married to Valerie Mather Wainwright in July 1976. A Houston socialite, the wedding was extremely extravagant, according to a profile on Rove by Politico. Wainwright came from a family who was friends with the Bush family. Shortly after their wedding, they moved to Texas to be nearer to her family. The marriage did not last long, with the two divorcing in early 1980.

Rove married his second wife, Darby Tara Hickson, in January 1986. The Washington Post reported that they were renovating an old lodge on the Guadalupe River southwest of Austin. The couple had one son together, Andrew Madison Rove, who went to university in San Antonio, Texas.

They divorced after 24 years of marriage, in 2009. A spokesperson for Karl Rove, Dana Perino, said in a statement that “The couple came to the decision mutually and amicably, and they maintain a close relationship and a strong friendship. There will be no further comment, and the family requests that its privacy be respected.”

Karen Johnson married Karl Rove in June 2012, becoming his third wife. The wedding in Austin was intimate and largely unreported, although it was attended by former President George W. Bush and casino mogul and billionaire Steve Wynn, Politico wrote.


2. She Is a Transportation Lobbyist

Karen Johnson is widely reported, including in the Washington Post, as being a Texas lobbyist with an Austin lobbying firm called Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. (ISI) but there isn’t much information about the firm. The Post also reports that she has an office in Washington, D.C. A Time article refers to her as a “transportation lobbyist from Austin.”

According to a Statesman article from 2014, Karen Johnson Rove purchased a D.C. condominium with two independent lobbyists from the outgoing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for over $1 million. At the time, Dewhurst told the Statesman: ““Let me make this very clear — Karen Rove is a long time personal friend, super smart and one classy lady. I understand that Karen and two friends are buying my condo as a real estate investment, and intend to follow the Home Owners Association rules just like my two next door neighbors in the building do.”


3. They Knew Each Other For a Long Time Before Getting Married

Karen Johnson and Karl Rove have been friends and colleagues for a long time before their marriage. According to a Denver Post entertainment piece from 2005, Johnson and Rove were friends for over a decade.

Another article from the Washington Post in 2011 speculated whether Karen Johnson was his girlfriend or a friend after they went on a hunting trip together.

On December 12, 2015, a video of Rove’s book launch for The Triumph of William McKinley shows Rove joking about how Mrs. Rove would have a great holiday. He said they just got the “latest check from the publisher, and she said that she’s going to get a new car.” He joked that she already named it, and it will be called McKinley. The video shows Karen in the crowd laughing. The full book launch video is available at C-Span, with this particular moment at 56 minutes and 40 seconds.


4. She Is From Austin & Has a Ranch in Valentine, Texas

Kay Johnson Library in Google Maps

The Kay Johnson public library in a Google Maps screenshot.

The Washington Post reported that the 54-year-old Johnson put her 5,000 square foot home in Austin on the market in 2009, and added that she had told the Austin American-Statement that she was planning to move to a ranch in Valentine, a rural town in Texas.

An article in the Houston Chronicle says that Karen Johnson Rove established a public library in Valentine in 2009. According to the article, Karen “spent her summers on her family’s Spring Mountain Ranch” and had decided to open up the public library and dedicate it to her late mother, Kay Johnson.


5. They Flew to Their Honeymoon in Italy on Billionaire Steve Wynn’s Private Jet

Karl Rove is known for his close friendship with billionaire Steve Wynn. Wynn is a Las Vegas casino mogul who said he voted for President Obama in 2008 and was a registered Democrat until recently, Politico reported.

Rove attended Wynn’s wedding in Las Vegas just a year before Wynn attended Rove and Johnson’s wedding in Austin. After the wedding, Wynn flew Rove and Johnson to Naples, Italy on his private Boeing 737.

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