In 2020, America might finally elect its first female commander in chief. And with her could come the nation’s first first gentleman.
In an already crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge President Donald Trump, several women are among the leading candidates: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) ― each of whom would bring along a husband to run the East Wing of the White House.
When it comes to the role of first spouse ― or first lady until now ― there are no legal parameters, according to experts. But there are still certain expectations of the activities those in that role have taken on ― and much of these have fallen along traditional gender lines.
“The primary role is social hostess: decorating the White House, holding events when foreign diplomats are here, giving tours,” said Jean Wahl Harris, a political science professor at the University of Scranton, who has studied the role of the first lady for nearly two decades. “Many of the expectations are very gendered, not things we would expect men to do, like hostessing ― but I think the expectations for the [male] spouse are not going to be the same.”
First ladies in the past have orchestrated official events, working with the White House social secretary, chefs and florists to do so. As White House custodian, each first lady has also chosen a set of china and rearranged the interior decor. They’re expected to travel abroad to represent the presidency to foreign governments, and at home, to choose a cause ― usually something noncontroversial, such as nutrition and exercise in Michelle Obama’s case.
“That will be the change: If they [first gentlemen] choose to keep their career,” said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush from 2005 to 2009 and now directs programming on the legacies of America’s first ladies at the Center for Presidential Studies at American University.
Until now, no first lady has kept her job once her husband reached the White House ― even when that meant leaving behind a hard-built career, like Obama who left a leadership position at the University of Chicago medical center to enter the White House. Any future first gentleman keeping their job would mean juggling work with first spouse duties, and could also pose a challenge to ensure there are no conflicts of interest with their private sector work.
HuffPost reached out to Harris, Gillibrand and Warren’s campaigns, who did not comment for this story.
Another question is whether the first gentleman would bear the same intense scrutiny by the public and media, particularly of their fashion choices, as first ladies always have.
“That will be the most interesting thing,” McBride said. “That conversation will go away for the [male] spouse, but I bet it will not go away for the [female] president,” she guessed.
Exactly how America’s first male presidential spouse may adapt to the role remains to be seen.
“It has been a very gendered role, so will having a ‘first man’ really change the expectations?” Harris wondered. “We may not expect as much from him ... but I hope I’m wrong.”
Here’s what you need to know about some of the men who may become America’s first first gentleman.
Bruce Mann, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Husband
His job: Mann, 68, is a law professor at Harvard Law School, teaching American legal history and property, according to his bio on Harvard’s website. This spring semester, he is teaching a legal U.S. history course covering 18th to 19th century America, including the impact of the American Revolution on the law and crime and changing legal definitions of slavery and freedom.
Where he grew up: Mann is from Massachusetts.
How he and the senator first met: Mann and Warren met in the late 1970s at a law conference in Florida, the Boston Globe reported. At the time, Warren was a single mom with two kids who had divorced from her first husband. After she proposed to Mann in a classroom after seeing him teach, they got hitched in July 1980, and have been married for nearly 39 years.
How he’s supported his wife in her political career: Warren has called Mann her “best friend, biggest supporter” and love of her life. Early on, he supported Warren’s career as a professor, giving up a job in Connecticut to move in with her and her kids in Houston, Texas, and later commuting from Philadelphia to their home in Cambridge on weekends, when Warren got tenure at Harvard before he did. “He did it all,” Warren told the Globe. “Bruce flew back and forth and back and forth.” Since Warren’s been a senator, Mann has become a fixture in her Instagram, and lately he’s been on the campaign trail or sending her cute pics of their dog Bailey when she’s off stumping without him.
Fun fact: Warren calls Mann her “sweetie.”
Best guess at the cause he’d choose as first gentleman: As a decades-long professor, Mann could become a champion for U.S. education and improving access to higher education.
Most likely domestic household initiative he’ll take on: As someone who offered his wife a newly installed and organized hallway closet for their anniversary, Mann would likely be a good steward of the White House’s interior decor. Combined with his affinity for U.S. history, he may choose to switch up some of the busts and portraits in the storied halls, and may enjoy giving White House tours to visiting students.
How he might decorate the White House for Christmas: In black and white, matching one of their favorite films, Casablanca, which Mann and Warren watch every New Year’s Eve together.
What designer he should wear to the Inaugural Ball: While it may be hard to get Mann out of his apparent favorite fashion staple, the quarter-zip sweater, our bets are that for the inaugural ball he’d sport a traditional suit by a U.S.-based designer.
Score 1-10 as an Instagram husband: 8/10 ― Mann gets a high score for his regular appearances in Warren’s Instagram posts, including casually passing on her offer for a beer during an Instagram live video: “I’ll pass on a beer for now,” he said. “Enjoy your beer.” However, he gets docked a couple of points for not having an Instagram of his own dedicated to highlighting Warren’s accomplishments or their occasionally matching outfits.
Douglas Emhoff, Sen. Kamala Harris’ Husband
His job: Emhoff, 54, is a “dad, hubby, lawyer, wannabe golfer,” according to his Twitter account. He is currently a partner at DLA Piper law firm focused on intellectual property litigation. According to his bio on the site, he’s passionate about legal aid, human rights, social justice and the well-being of children. He has two college-aged children, Cole and Ella, from a previous marriage, and when he’s not working on a case or supporting his wife on the campaign trail, he can be found golfing, maintaining his fantasy football team or helping his wife in the kitchen, Vogue reported.
Where he lives: Emhoff and Harris moved to Brentwood, California, shortly after they were married.
Where he grew up: Emhoff was born in New York. He moved to California to study law at the University of Southern California ― a lucky move, as it was in the Golden State that he later met the woman who could become Madam President.
How he and the senator first met: Harris and her future hubby met on a blind date set up by one of her friends. They got engaged on March 27, 2014, with Emhoff dropping to one knee in Harris’ San Francisco apartment and presenting her with a diamond and platinum engagement ring. (Spoiler: she said yes). The couple had an intimate wedding that August at a Santa Barbara Courthouse, where Harris’ sister, Maya Harris West, officiated and they honored Emhoff’s Jewish heritage by breaking a glass after the “I do’s.” Mazel tov!
How he’s supported his wife in her political career: Though Emhoff is typically out of the public eye, he is his wife’s biggest fan and shows it with a social media presence largely comprised of tweets about and retweets of Harris’ platform and accolades. Emhoff will likely continue to be Harris’ main cheerleader as she takes on Trump and maybe takes the White House.
Fun fact: Emhoff’s aforementioned fantasy football team is named “Nirvana” after the band. Sounds like someone has a go-to karaoke song in his back pocket...
Best guess at the cause he’d choose as first gentleman: According to his bio for his law firm, Emhoff is passionate about many charitable causes, including those that impact the well-being of children. Emhoff may focus on education, the foster care system, children’s hospitals or any other area that would promote the well-being of America’s future generations.
Most likely domestic household initiative he’ll take on: Harris spends a great deal of time in the kitchen planning meals and menus, but as the potential leader of the free world, her plate is likely going to be too full to continue to be a master chef. So First Gentleman Emhoff will have to graduate from “sous chef” and make sure the White House kitchen is preparing all of Kamala’s favorite comfort foods exactly the way wifey would make it.
How he might decorate the White House for Christmas: Emhoff and Harris post holiday cards to her Instagram page every Christmas. His decor style is likely traditional and welcoming, just like the cards ― think classic golds, greens and reds on the tallest pine trees in every corner and crevice. Emhoff is Jewish, so it would make sense for him to use the holidays as an opportunity to pay homage to his heritage and holiday celebrations across cultures. The Harris White House in December would likely be a spot of multicultural celebration.
What designer he should wear to the Inaugural Ball: Emhoff tends to favor a simple blue button up and jacket in most photographs of the couple out and about, so he’d likely go for a designer who can keep things simple and comfortable, yet chic ― perhaps Chanel for a classic, sophisticated look. We’d have them know that the man also looks great in a bowtie.
Score 1-10 as an Instagram husband: Unfortunately, Emhoff doesn’t seem to have an Instagram account of his own, but his presence on his wife’s page is a 10 out of 10. Not only is he a perfect selfie partner, posing for date night pics and holiday photos that could be in a Hallmark card, but he’s also comfortable behind the camera, snapping pics of his wife on the road and on TV. He’s her personal paparazzi.
Jonathan Gillibrand, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Husband
His job: Jonathan Gillibrand, 50, is a business consultant. Sen. Gillibrand told New York Family in 2013 that, over the course of their marriage, Jonathan has held “different jobs and [had] different levels of flexibility.”
Where he lives: In 2011, the Gillibrands purchased a house in Brunswick, New York near Sen. Gillibrand’s family, which remains their primary residence.
Where he grew up: Jonathan is a Brit! He grew up in the United Kingdom and came to the United States to study abroad at Columbia University and get his MBA. He only planned to stay for a year, but then he met Kirsten.
How he and the senator first met: The Gillibrands met on a blind date while Jonathan was studying in New York City at Columbia University. At the time, Sen. Gillibrand was a lawyer in the city. “I thought he was one of the nicest and kindest people I’d ever met,” the senator told Vogue in 2010, describing her first date with her future husband. “That’s what charmed me.” Their second date involved going to mass together at St. Ignatius, on the Upper East Side.
How he’s supported his wife in her political career: Sen. Gillibrand has long maintained that her husband is incredibly supportive of her political ambitions. She told New York Family that Jonathan “really believes in what [she’s] doing in Washington,” adding that he once told her: “As long as you’re making a difference, as long as you’re helping people, this is something we’re going to do. And the day that you’re not is the day we’re not going to do it!” However, the senator told Vogue that the one part of the job her husband has trouble with is when she gets publicly attacked. “He gets very upset,” she said.
Fun fact: Jonathan proposed using a snowball with a ring in it, which Sen. Gillibrand almost threw at a squirrel instead of opening it up.
Best guess at the cause he’d choose as first gentleman: As a business consultant, perhaps he could focus on pushing comprehensive financial education for young people.
Most likely domestic household initiative he’ll take on: As a British national, Jonathan could be instrumental in helping to host foreign events for dignitaries and build bridges between the U.S. and its allies. (Also… the china. He’s gotta pick out the White House china.)
How he might decorate the White House for Christmas: Unclear exactly what his decorating style would be ― maybe a simple red and white plaid motif? ― but we think he’d definitely want pints of Guinness served at the White House Christmas Party.
What designer he should wear to the Inaugural Ball: Jonathan seems to favor simple button-ups and sweaters, but we’re sure he would dress it up for an inaugural ball. The real question is, would he favor a designer from his native U.K. or an American designer, like Tom Ford? It seems likely that he’d go full American patriot for the occasion, just as American Meghan Markle chose a British designer for her royal wedding gown.
Score 1-10 as an Instagram husband: 7/10 ― Jonathan is a fairly private person, but he seems pretty game to show up for photos with his wife and kids (Theodore Ignatius and Henry Nelson). These Insta appearances are especially frequent during the holidays, like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween, or on special occasions, like Sen. Gillibrand’s birthday.