Jen O’Malley Dillon, chosen as President-elect Joe Biden’s Deputy Chief of Staff after serving as his campaign manager, is married to another career political strategist. Michael Patrick Dillon previously worked for President Barack Obama as a special assistant and Deputy Director of Political Affairs before joining a political consulting firm. O’Malley and Dillon tied the knot in 2007 and have three children.
Dillon’s wife made headlines in mid-December after she referred to Republicans with less-than-flattering language. In an interview with Glamour magazine, O’Malley insulted the GOP even as she was discussing Biden’s push for bipartisan compromise:
The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity. In the primary, people would mock him, like, “You think you can work with Republicans?” I’m not saying they’re not a bunch of fuckers. Mitch McConnell is terrible. But this sense that you couldn’t wish for that, you couldn’t wish for this bipartisan ideal? He rejected that. From start to finish, he set out with this idea that unity was possible, that together we are stronger, that we, as a country, need healing, and our politics needs that too.
The day after the interview was published online, Dillon defended O’Malley on Twitter. Dillon tweeted in response to critics who expressed issue with O’Malley’s choice of words, “If you have more problems with language used here than with the atmosphere of threats and violence that has gone on the last 38 days while people who know better did less than nothing, then, well, then maybe there’s some specific language that applies to you.” Dillon went on, “There’s a website out there called ‘Enemies of the People’ with a picture of crosshairs over my wife’s face, our house and our address, saying her ‘days are numbered’ with a countdown timer. If you’ve got performative outrage to do, let’s start there, or go home.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Dillon & O’Malley Didn’t Like Each Other When They First Met But a Trip to the Iowa State Fair Changed That
— Jen O'Malley Dillon (@jomalleydillon) June 30, 2018
Dillon and O’Malley met because of their careers in politics. Their paths first crossed in 2003 when they were both working for John Edwards’ Democratic primary campaign. Dillon worked with the media and O’Malley promoted Edwards’ message in the field.
Dillon and O’Malley didn’t like each other at first, as the New York Times reported in 2007. O’Malley told the newspaper, “Our first impressions weren’t the greatest. I come from the grassroots camp, and thought a lot of myself, doing ‘field,’ and he’s the communications side — the message guy. I thought of him as stuffy.”
The two began to get along after they were forced to spend long hours working together in Iowa. The couple explained for their Times wedding announcement that their relationship turned romantic after their colleagues left them behind during a trip to the Iowa State Fair. Dillon remembered, “It was pretty quickly just the two of us. We won a stuffed animal — the whole goofy, corny story.”
O’Malley and Dillon tied the knot in her hometown of Franklin, Massachusetts, on June 30, 2007. The ceremony was officiated by a Roman Catholic priest at St. Mary’s Church, as the Times reported. At the time of their marriage, they were both based in Iowa. O’Malley was working on Edwards’ second presidential campaign as his Iowa campaign director and Dillon was chief of staff to Iowa’s governor.
On their 11th wedding anniversary, the couple celebrated by protesting against family separation at the border. O’Malley shared a photo of them at the rally and wrote, “Couldn’t imagine a better way to spend our anniversary than joining tens of thousands in DC in protest because #FamiliesBelongTogether.”
2. Dillon Grew Up in El Paso & Began His Career at a Democratic Think Tank
Dillon grew up in the south. According to his professional profile with Hilltop Public Solutions, Dillon is a Texas native. In 2019, he and his wife temporarily lived in his hometown of El Paso while she was working as Beto O’Rourke’s campaign manager, the El Paso Times reported. O’Malley told the newspaper at the time that she was excited to bring their children to Dillon’s hometown.
Dillon’s parents relocated to northern Kentucky at some point. According to the 2007 wedding announcement in the New York Times, Dillon’s parents were living in La Grange at that time and his father was a high school English teacher.
After high school, Dillon made the move to Washington, D.C. According to his LinkedIn profile, Dillon earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Georgetown University in 1999. He also served as the president of the College Democrats, according to his Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service profile.
Dillon used that early political experience to obtain his first job. He began his career at the New Democrat Network, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C.
3. Dillon Worked for the Iowa Governor Before Joining the Obama Administration
Dillon’s first campaign experience was a victorious one. He worked for Mark Warner’s gubernatorial campaign in 2001. Warner served one term as Virginia’s governor before going on to win a seat in the Senate.
After about a year on Capitol Hill, Dillon got involved with campaigns by joining John Edwards’ team. Dillon worked in communications and traveled to Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio and Iowa for the role. As referenced above, it was during this time period that Dillon met O’Malley in Iowa.
Once Edwards dropped out of the Democratic primary, Dillon joined South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle’s campaign as the paid media director. Daschle lost the 2004 election to Republican John Thune, who still holds that Senate seat.
Dillon then spent nine months with the One America Committee before returning to Iowa. He was hired as campaign manager for Chet Culver, who was serving as Iowa’s Secretary of State at the time and had decided to run for governor. Following Culver’s election victory, Dillon stayed on as Culver’s chief of staff.
Dillon returned to Washington, D.C. after President Obama was sworn in. As the Obama team explained in a news release days before the inauguration, Dillon was hired to be the Deputy Director of Political Affairs.
4. Dillon Is a Fellow at Georgetown University & a Partner at a Consulting Firm
— Patrick Dillon (@mpdillon) January 14, 2016
Dillon left the Obama administration in January 2011 to become a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, a political consulting firm. According to its website, the organization manages “high-stakes, high-profile campaigns, build coalitions and find and mobilize grasstops and grassroots advocates across the country.” The firm was actually co-founded by someone close to Dillon and O’Malley. Co-founder David Kieve is married to Kate Bedingfield, who was chosen to serve as Biden’s White House Communications Director.
In addition to his work with the firm, Dillon has also returned to his alma mater. He is a fellow and on the advisory board for Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics & Public Service. Based on Dillon’s Twitter feed, he started in this role in January 2016. He posted a photo alongside the school mascot, Jack the Bulldog, and wrote in the caption, “Can’t beat hanging out with @GeorgetownJack first day back on campus for @GUPolitics.”
5. Dillon & O’Malley Have Three Children
— Jen O'Malley Dillon (@jomalleydillon) October 30, 2016
Their twin daughters were born in November 2012. O’Malley told Glamour the girls arrived one week after the 2012 election. And Dillon is hands-on when it comes to raising daughters. O’Malley tweeted a picture of Dillon in October 2016 as he sewed a princess costume for Halloween. O’Malley wrote at the time, “Yesterday I tweeted re: the #patriarchy. Today I give you a good man helping his wife sew a costume. ❤️”
Dillon and O’Malley welcomed their son in 2018. O’Malley shared a picture of baby Kevin wearing a T-shirt that read “Tiny feminist” on it. She wrote, “Hell yes this baby boy will be a feminist!” One of the hashtags she used was “#justlikedad.”