WASHINGTON ? Dallas congressman Pete Sessions quietly got married Saturday to Karen Diebel, a former Orlando-area congressional candidate.
Sessions? office confirmed the wedding, which took place in Washington at a ?small ceremony.?
?Pete and Karen were delighted to be joined by their families to celebrate their marriage,? Sessions spokeswoman Torrie Miller said Sunday afternoon.
Sessions, 57, confirmed in July 2011 that he had separated from his first wife, Juanita, after 27 years of marriage. They have two children. By the following month, the divorce was final.
Diebel, 45, is a widow with three sons.
Neither had publicly announced the relationship.
Elected in 1996, Sessions is serving his 8th term in the U.S. House. He has chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee since late 2008 and apparently met Diebel during his travels recruiting and stumping for candidates.
Diebel, a former Winter Park, Fla., city commissioner, ran for Congress in 2010. She lost an August GOP primary to Sandra Adams, an Orlando Republican who ousted freshman Democrat Suzanne Kosmas that fall.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate, was Diebel?s most prominent supporter, and she lost the primary by just 543 votes.
In June 2011, Diebel announced she would try again, laying the groundwork to run in a new district the state Legislature hadn?t yet drawn. The effort fizzled, and she dropped out in November.
On her campaign website, she describes herself as a conservative businesswoman and a ?tough campaigner.?
Among their common interests: She has worked as an executive at Verizon. Sessions worked at Southwestern Bell before his election to Congress.
Politico reported in March 2011 that Sessions ?raised eyebrows? by bringing Diebel to a meeting of the House GOP Conference, meetings to which candidates in contested primaries are not usually invited.
On March 8, 2011, Sessions donated $2,000 from his campaign account to Diebel?s. On June 30, 2011, he donated another $5,000 from his political action committee, federal records show, though she refunded $3,500 in December after dropping her bid.
Days before the August 2010 primary, a rival who ended up running third, Craig Miller, the former CEO of Ruth?s Chris Steak House, sent voters a mailer accusing Diebel of being ?unstable? and ?bizarre.? He cited a spate of 911 calls Diebel had made, including one in which she alleged that a political opponent had placed a snake in her pool, and public arguments she was involved in on the city commission.
Sessions, in his role as NRCC chairman, sought to referee the nastiness. In particular, he took issue with an allegation of Diebel?s ?erratic behavior? drawn from a quote by a Democratic official.
?I am distressed and concerned anytime we have Republicans attack one another,? Sessions told Politico?on Aug. 23, 2010. ?It makes me sick to my stomach.?
One year ago next week, the NRCC said Diebel had attained ?On the Radar? status, saying she had met certain organizational and fund-raising benchmarks under the committee?s ?Young Guns? program, which spotlights up-and-coming candidates.
?We are looking forward to working with Karen Diebel, who has already proven herself by meeting rigorous benchmarks in the ?Young Guns? program that will position her campaign for victory,? Sessions said in a statement at the time. ?Karen Diebel?s dedication and
experience enables her to advocate effectively for pro-growth policies and fight the failed Democrat status quo in Washington. This will stand in stark contrast to the Democrats? record of spending, borrowing and taxing that Florida families and small businesses know has failed.?
Congress started a five-week recess on Friday.