Put Theresa Greenfield and Maria Ammend on the phone together and you will be hard-pressed to figure out which sister you’re talking to.
Greenfield and Ammend, 56, are identical twins, and it shows. If not for the different hairstyles they wore during a recent Zoom interview, it would have been difficult to tell the U.S. Senate candidate from the “super volunteer.”
“Dad still can’t tell us apart,” Ammend said. “I talked to him the other day, Theresa, and he goes, ‘Oh sweetie how’s your campaign going?’ I said, ‘Dad, it’s Maria.'”
“It’s hard with our voices the same,” Greenfield added.
Greenfield, Democrats’ candidate to go up against Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, is the second-youngest of her four siblings. She is older than Ammend by 15 minutes.
On Thursday, the sisters released their first ad together. Seated side by side in different shades of a checkered blue shirt, Greenfield and Ammend lamented the “political twins” in Congress.
“What we don’t need is more political twins in Washington,” Greenfield said.
“People who just do what their party leaders say,” Ammend said.
“Folks, Joni Ernst said she’d be independent, and she’s been anything but,” Greenfield said.
Shooting an ad with her sister “was hilarious,” the candidate noted.
“I think my team was probably frustrated because we giggled so much and laughed so much and improvised so much,” Greenfield said. “And we even stumped them once and switched lines and it took them a little bit to figure it out.”
When talking to the sisters, even from the distance of a video call, the bond between the two is evident. The emotion in their voices was clear as they described growing up in the tiny town of Bricelyn, Minnesota, and the difficult times they’ve seen each other through.
“Throughout our lives, we were really each other’s first phone call,” Greenfield said. “If we had a flat tire — not that we had cell phones — but if we needed help, our first person was always to run to each other, and still is.”
At 24, when Greenfield’s first husband died in a workplace accident, her first call after the priest was to Ammend.
“Maria, you really helped me through that time,” Greenfield said, who at the time had a young boy and another child on the way. “My boys always referred to me as momma and they always called her ‘mama-ria.’ They were little. They couldn’t tell the difference between the two of us. If I would walk into the room they’d be like, ‘mama!’ And sometimes they’d be like, mama-ria?”
“After Rod died … there was a time there that I lived with Theresa for a while to help out as she was starting to go back to school,” Ammend said.
Even from a distance — Greenfield lives in Des Moines and Ammend in Frederic, Wisconsin — Ammend is still her sister’s “No. 1 volunteer.” And, as Greenfield points out, was the first in the family to hold elected office. Ammend served 10 years on the Village Board in Frederic and still serves on the Park Board. She doesn’t give Greenfield political advice about her campaign, opting instead for “emotional advice” and behind the scenes support.
“She’s certainly been a super volunteer, honestly,” Greenfield said. “But probably the biggest role you play is the morning phone calls. Whether it’s 15 minutes or a whole hour, I really appreciate that you’ve made time in your day for me right off the start. You always take my call!”
“You always take my call!” Ammend said. “You’re busy and you still take my call, and I love that.”
Though twins do not run in the family, they were surprisingly common in the sisters’ small town. At one time, they said, their basketball team was comprised of two sets of twins and two sisters. When it came time for their first job, waitressing at a nearby Country Kitchen, the customers thought they had a waitress who was two places at once.
“What was really fun was oftentimes guests that were at the restaurant would compliment her or compliment me and say, ‘You’re everywhere. You really work hard. You do so much,'” Greenfield recalled. “They didn’t realize there was two of us.”
Some cousins called them “not Maria” or “not Theresa.” The invention of caller ID was a game-changer.
“Our sister Kim said she was so thankful when caller ID came out,” Ammend said. “She’d have to start the conversation and then ask, ‘How are things?’ Or, ‘Where are you at today?’ Of course I’d say something about Wisconsin and then she’d know she was talking to Maria.”
Given the coronavirus pandemic, the election night party in two months likely will look much different than the usual packed room of supporters, friends and family. Win or lose, Ammend will be there.
“Theresa just as Theresa, people will fall in love with her,” Ammend said. “I don’t know how you could not.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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