City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

March 28, 2011
Mayor KJ and Rhee: lovey-dovey emails and dates with his mom

Dates with his mom. Cute text messages. Sundays at home watching "Mad Men."

That sums up the relationship of Mayor Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee, according to an interview the couple recently did with Marie Claire magazine.

Johnson told the magazine's Andrea Todd that he and his fiancée "text and email 'lovey-doveys' throughout the day" and that Rhee handles the couple's wardrobe. He said the couple is very compatible and that he has to "restrain myself from firing off an email or making a phone call" when Rhee is criticized in the press.

Their first date was at a rooftop Mexican restaurant in Denver during the 2008 Democratic Convention, despite Rhee's apparent concern that the pair disagreed a lot. Rhee, who runs a national education reform organization based here and is the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public school system, said she eventually learned Johnson "was passionate about education reform and a very hard worker."

As for the couple's typical date, the mayor said they are "homebodies."

Rhee added, "We got out with his mom! That doesn't sound romantic, but I really love her. We'll go see a movie or stroll around looking at sidewalk art sales. We're obsessed with 'Mad Men,' and on Sunday nights we'll watch it before I get on a red-eye back to D.C. (where Rhee still lives)."

And Rhee is as defensive of Johnson as the mayor is of her.

"I don't care when (criticism) happens to me, but I'm very defensive when Kevin is criticized," she said. "He's not power hungry. He has very little power to change things. His predecessors never fought for the power it takes to make real changes. But if the criticism is valid, we're honest with each other."

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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