Chao previously served as the director of the Peace Corps during President George H.W. Bush’s administration and was the Secretary of Labor for all eight years of the George W. Bush administration. The 63-year-old Chao was born in Taipei, Taiwan and has lived in the U.S. since she was eight years old.
As for McConnell, he has been the Senate Majority Leader since 2015, when Republicans took control of the Senate after the 2014 mid-term election. He was first elected to the Senate in 1985 and was named Senate Minority Leader in 2007. McConnell was previously married to Sherrill Redmon and the two have three daughters together.
Here’s a look at McConnell and Chao’s relationship.
1. Chao & McConnell Were Introduced by Stuart Bloch, Who Describes Chao as ‘Made of Titanium’
Chaeo and McConnell were introduced by Stuart Block, who McConnell befriended during the 1960s. In the early 1990s, when Bloch was married to the future ambassador to Nepal, Julia Chang Bloch, Bloch invited the two to dinner.
“I don’t want to say that sparks flew because that’s not the way either of them is,” Bloch told the New York Times in 2014 of that first dinner.
“Tiger wife!” Bloch first described Chao. He then told the Times that she is “made of titanium.”
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2. Chao Called Their First Meeting a ‘Blind Date’ & Called McConnell a ‘Low-Maintenance Husband’
While the 74-year-old McConnell was promoting his book The Long Game in May 2016, the senator and Chao were interviewed by CBS News. Chao said that their first date was a blind date because they have never seen each other before.
“It literally was a blind date, ’cause I had never seen her before,” McConnell said.
Chao told CBS News that McConnell “actually cooked” before his fellow Republicans made him Senate Majority Leader. She called him a “low maintenance husband.”
Chao and McConnell married in 1993, on Ronald Reagan’s birthday.
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3. Chao Is the Real Breadwinner in the Family Since Her Father Is a Shipping Magnate
Chao is the real breadwinner of the family. Her father is James S.C. Chao, the founder of the Foremost Group, a shipping and trading company based in New York. When Chao’s mother died in 2007, she received an inheritance and the couple’s net worth jumped.
Before the inheritance, McConnell’s net worth was at $7.8 million, The Washington Post reported in 2014. As of 2014, McConnell’s net worth is at $22.8 million.
Politico reported in 2009 that the couple received a “personal gift” from the Chao family worth between $5 million and $25 million.
In 2014, The Hill reported that financial disclosure records showed that the couple made almost $3 million in 2013 alone from Wells Fargo stock Chao holds.
4. Chao Played a Major Role in McConnell’s 2014 Re-Election Campaign to Help Him Connect With Voters
In 2014, McConnell faced a serious challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, but she failed to win. Still, McConnell had to campaign and connect with the average voter, which isn’t something he’s best at. So he recruited Chao to help him do that.
As Time Magazine reported in 2014, Chao hosted 50 events and was at many others for her husband. McConnell spokesman John Ashbrook said that he played a “huge part” in raising much of his $30 million war chest. She also enjoyed hugging people on the campaign trail.
“The biggest asset I have by far is the only Kentucky woman who served in a president’s cabinet, my wife, Elaine Chao,” McConnell said at the Fancy Farm GOP political picnic in August 2014.
The campaign also included a serious mistake from Kathy Groob, the founder of a Democratic PAC called Elect Women. In a tweet, she called Chao McConnell’s “Chinese wife.” The comments were condemned by Democrats, but the incident frustrated McConnell.
“It was a racial slur in my view and it infuriated the Senator,” former McConnell aide Billy Piper told Time Magazine. “He is not ever going to take it when she gets attacked.”
5. McConnell & Chao Also Share an Archive at the University of Louisville
The University of Louisville has the McConnell Center, which is home to the McConnell-Chao Archives. In addition to including papers from McConnell’s life and Senate career, it also preserves Chao’s work during her time leading the Labor Department as the first Asian American woman in a cabinet-level position.
“Her personal papers provide a valuable resource on the life on immigrant family, her prolific career as an executive and life in public service and the many activities associated with these positions,” Curator Deborah Skaggs Speth said in the archives’ mission statement.
“Elaine and I share a life, and now we share an archive, and I wouldn’t have it any other way… although if this place turns out anything like our closet space at home, I might end up with the short end of the stick,” McConnell said in his remarks at the opening of the archivei n November 2009. “Elaine is not only the love of my life, she’s also a remarkable American, and I’m so glad that more people will now have the chance to learn about her incredible life’s journey, and to be inspired by it as I have been.”
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