MORAGA -- Dennis Wanken will probably never be known for being terse.
Several minutes into an answer, his wife, Eleni, abruptly cuts him off.
"Keep it short. Get to the point," she says.
"See, we're having an argument here," Dennis replies.
If the Wankens get their way, their disagreements could take place on a dais, and on the record. They are both seeking seats on the Moraga Town Council, running on the slogan, "Elect Team Wanken."
And they may be one of the only married couples in the East Bay to ever run concurrently for the same public office.
It's not unusual for married couples to share a life in politics. Mary Piepho is on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and her husband, David, serves on the Discovery Bay Community Services District. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates' wife, Loni Hancock, represents Berkeley in the state Senate.
It's not even unusual for this election. In Fremont, Diana and Vladimir Rodriguez are running for school board and City Council seats, respectively.
But for the same council, at the same time?
"In my 44 years in this business, I've never heard of it," said Don Blubaugh, executive director of the Contra Costa Mayors' Conference and a former city manager for Walnut Creek, Fremont and Martinez. "That's not to suggest that maybe it hasn't happened."
The Wankens, who run a number of schools throughout the East Bay, have been elected before, but not together.
The Wankens insist they will not vote as a bloc, and say there are issues -- they gave the proposed Dollar Tree store as an example -- on which they disagree (she is for it; he has more reservations).
"Sometimes we get in arguments in front of prospective clients because of our differing viewpoints," Dennis said.
"We're both passionate," Eleni said. "That's what saves us."
"That's our common denominator," Dennis said. "We're both passionate, and some people mistake that for thinking alike."
Only two seats on the Moraga council are up for re-election, meaning if the Wankens want to serve together they'll have to beat incumbent Mayor Ken Chew and Councilman Dave Trotter, as well as fellow challenger Seth Freeman.
Chew called the fact the Wankens are running as a ticket intriguing, but said his focus in the campaign is on his accomplishments and the issues facing Moraga.
But he said he had concerns the situation could raise open-government issues. If the Wankens were elected and privately discussed an issue before a council subcommittee in which only one of them is a member, Chew said, it could violate the Brown Act, the state law that regulates public meetings.
That may be the case, but such a situation is just as likely if two very good friends served on a council together, said Terry Francke, an attorney with open government advocacy group Californians Aware.
"Ultimately, the Brown Act depends on the personal integrity of the members," Francke said. "If they're not going to be honest and if they're determined to violate the law, then it doesn't make much difference what the relationships are otherwise."
The Wankens say they want to bring more openness and honesty to the town's government and have always leaned on each other for support, especially when their home fell victim to a landslide in 1998.
"This is what a relationship is based on," Dennis said. "You make it through the good times as well as the bad."