Mitch McConnell has a good chance to become Senate Majority Leader in November. But in order to do that, he’ll first have to fend off a challenge for his seat from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who’s waged a competitive race and was even ahead by 2 percentage points in one recent poll.
Here’s what you need to know about the candidate fighting to continue his Senate career:
1. He’s Been in the Senate for 30 Years
McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984, running against two-term Democrat Walter Lee Huddleston. He won by a narrow margin, becoming the first Republican to win a state race in Kentucky in 16 years.
McConnell has been re-elected four times, fending off Democratic opponents even in 1996, when Kentucky went blue for Bill Clinton.
On January 10, 2009, McConnell became Kentucky’s longest-serving senator, surpassing Sen. Wendell Ford’s record, according to the LaRue County Herald. The same article says that:
“McConnell is widely credited as chief mastermind behind a Republican ascendancy in Kentucky, where the GOP holds both U.S. Senate seats, four of six congressional seats and controls the state Senate.”
2. He’s the Senate Minority Leader
Since election to the position, his Democratic counterpart and Majority Leader has been Senator Harry Reid of Nevada.
McConnell also serves as a senior member of the Appropriations, Agriculture and Rules Committees.
3. He’s a Proud Louisville Alum
In a state dominated by University of Kentucky fans, and despite having attended University of Kentucky College of Law, McConnell is a Louisville man.
He graduated from University of Louisville with a B.A. in Political Science and the university is now home to the McConnell Center. He continues to be a ‘rabid fan‘ of their sports teams, though he claims to also support UK.
He faced criticism earlier this year after a campaign ad purporting to show Kentucky players celebrating instead showed footage of Duke basketball players celebrating a title win.
4. He’s Married to Elaine Chao
McConnell was first married to Sherill Redmon, who went on to be a feminist scholar at Smith College in Massachusetts, and with whom he has three daughters, Elly, Claire, and Porter. She is not mentioned in his Senate biography or campaign literature.
He married Elaine Chao in 1993. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she was has been Director of the Peace Corps and President and CEO of the United Way of America. She was the United States Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009.
5. He Survived Polio
McConnell was born on February 20, 1942 in Sheffield, Alabama, to Addison Mitchell McConnell and Julia McConnell. He was diagnosed with polio as a toddler, and his mother performed regular physical therapy to allow him full use of his legs.
He moved to Louisville at 13, and played baseball through high school. He was president of the student council in high school, college, and law school, and interned with Sen. John Sherman Cooper (R-Ky.) during his college years.