Lee Hart, Wife of Ex-Senator Gary Hart, Dies at 85

Lee Hart, the wife of former Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, who stood by him when his front-running campaign for the presidency collapsed in 1987 amid reports that he was having an extramarital affair, died on Friday in Lakewood, Colo. She was 85.

Her family confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.

Ms. Hart, a former English teacher, campaigned for her husband during his runs for the Senate and the White House.

In 1984, Mr. Hart sought the Democratic presidential nomination, losing narrowly to former Vice President Walter F. Mondale. He declined to seek re-election to the Senate in 1986 and sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.

He was widely seen as the front-runner, but his campaign was derailed amid questions about his relationship with a young Miami model, Donna Rice. Mr. Hart denied that he was having an affair, and Ms. Hart strongly rejected the allegations.

“I love my husband very much,” she said during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire. “I know Gary better than anyone else, and when Gary says nothing happened, nothing happened.’’

After dropping out of the race, Mr. Hart tried to revive his campaign, and again Ms. Hart was supportive. “I’m doing what I always wanted to do,” she said, “traveling with Gary.”

Even before the scandal, the Harts’ marriage had had its ups and downs. They separated twice, in 1979 and 1981, and even announced plans to divorce, but they remained married for more than 60 years.

Ms. Hart was born Oletha Ludwig in Lawrence, Kan., on Feb. 20, 1936. She graduated from Bethany Nazarene College in 1958 and married Mr. Hart that summer.

While her husband was getting a graduate degree at Yale University, Ms. Hart taught English in Milford, Conn., according to The Denver Post.

She is survived by her husband; her two children, John and Andrea Hart; her sister, former U.S. Representative Martha Keys of Kansas; and two grandchildren.

The New York Times contributed reporting.

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