As Donald Trump puts together his cabinet, a mix of Washington insiders and outsiders have cropped up as possibilities. Linda McMahon, the wife of WWE CEO Vince McMahon, was being considered for the role of Secretary of Commerce, NBC Connecticut reported on November 13. However, on December 7, she was chosen to lead the U.S. Small Business Administration, an agency that provides small businesses with government assistance.
The current SBA Administrator is Maria Contreras-Sweet, who had previous government experience as the California cabinet Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. McMahon’s previous government experience includes serving on the Connecticut Board of Education.
McMahon, who served as WWE CEO herself from 1997 to 2009, has run two unsuccessful campaigns to represent Connecticut in the U.S. Senate as a Republican. In 2010, she lost to Richard Blumenthal. In 2012, he lost to Chris Murphy.
The 68-year-old McMahon has been married to Vince McMahon since 1966 and the two are parents to Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon. Her most recent venture is Women’s Leadership Live.
Here’s a look at McMahon’s political career.
1. McMahon’s First Position in Government Was on the Connecticut Board of Education in 2009
Nearly three decades after she and her husband began the company that would evolve into the WWE, McMahon began a career in government in January 2009. That year, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell appointed her to the State Board of Education. A month later, the State House of Representatives and the Senate voted to approve her appointment.
There were critics of the decision, as some thought that having the wife of the WWE’s founder working in education would send the wrong signal. In her opening statement in testimony to the state legislature, the North Carolina native explained that she has always had an interest in education. She brought up the WWE’s programs like Get R.E.A.L. and the 2008 voter outreach program “Smackdown your Vote!”
In February 2009, the WWE changed its TV rating to PG, which some fans thought was an attempt by McMahon to tone their events down as she planned to launch a political career.
In a June 2016 Sports Illustrated interview, McMaohn insisted that she her political interests weren’t the main reason for the rating change.
That wasn’t me, so much, moving to a PG-rating. The development of WWE programming, over time, has mirrored the market place. During the time that WWE was in the ‘Attitude Era,’ which was TV-14–if you looked at television programming and movies that were produced, they were edgier during that same time frame. Then, as that opinion shifted, WWE’s opinion shifted, as well, and sponsors had different demands. It was more of a family-friendlier audience to come back to PG-TV.
McMahon has returned her attention to education and her current venture is Women’s Leadership LIVE, which aims to help women become leaders.
As McMahon told SI:
We want to let women know, ‘This is how these women were successful, and they’re sharing their story with you.’ Our goal is to train women, give them the tools for success–ever how they define success, and that’s what is critical. We want to reach into each of those pockets to give them access to that knowledge and experience.
2. McMahon Spent a Combined $100 Million on 2 Failed Senate Bids
In a three-year period, McMahon tried twice to win a seat in the U.S. Senate twice and both campaigns cost her a sizable fortune.
In her first campaign, against Blumenthal in 2010, McMahon spent $50 million. The Hartford Courant reported that it broke a state record Ned Lamont set in 2006, when he spent $17 million in a failed campaign against Joe Lieberman.
In 2010, McMahon lost with 43.2 percent of the vote and only won one county.
In 2012, McMahon had almost the exact same result. She earned 43.3 percent of the vote and lost to Chris Murphy. In both elections, the only county McMahon won was Litchfield County.
Before the 2012 election, The New York Times reported that McMahon spent a combined $100 million on the two elections.
3. She Found a Voice in the Republican Party Through Donations & Fundraisers After Her Losses
After McMahon lost her two elections, she remained an important figure in the Republican party by hosting fundraisers and making donations to Republican causes. As Roll Call reported last year, she hosted a fundraiser for Chris Christie‘s Leadership Matters for America PAC and delivered a speech at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit in New Hampshire.
She also campaign contributions throughout the 2014 elections, giving $1.15 million to Ending Spending Action Fund and $800,000 to American Crossroads. Candidates who received donations from McMahon during the 2014 midterms include Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik.
“She has a real role in the party,” Corry Bliss, McMahon’s 2012 campaign manager, told Roll Call in 2015. “She has set an example for other women to get involved in the Republican Party.”
4. McMahon Served as a Delegate at the RNC & Thought Trump Had a Shot to Win Connecticut
McMahon served as a Republican delegate for the first time at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. At the RNC, she told Roll Call that she thought Connecticut had a chance to flip red, even though the state hasn’t voted for a Republican candidate since 1988. Trump didn’t change that in 2016.
McMahon told Roll Call that there are some things she disagrees with Trump about. “He has said he’s a pro-life candidate, so we may be a little different on that,” she said. However, she does see herself as fiscally conservative.
However, like Trump, she tried her best to avoid outside donations. She spent her own money on her first Senate campaign. “I felt it was a bonus to use my own money because I said out-front I won’t be beholden to any lobbyists,” she told Roll Call.
McMahon has known Trump for 30 years, but she told Roll Call that their relationship was strictly business. The McMahons did make a $5 million donation to Trump’s foundation in 2007.
5. McMahon Called Trump’s Comments on Women ‘Deplorable’ Back in March 2016 & Still Backed Him
During a March 2016 interview with Yahoo News, McMahon called comments made by Trump “deplorable,” dubbing the 2016 Republican primary campaign a “Wild West show” with “over the top” rhetoric.
“Those [comments] were just over the top; they were deplorable, objectionable absolutely,” McMahon said of Trump’s comments about women. “He’s not helping, certainly, to put women in the best light. Maybe he regrets them, maybe he doesn’t. I realize he punches hard when he punches back, but that’s just over the top. I wish that no candidate would make those comments.”
However, this did not stop McMahon, a former Christie supporter, from backing Trump. Indeed, she told the Associated Press that he is “a vessel that has housed this anger and this dissatisfaction” in the U.S.
“Once you’re his friend, he is loyal to the end. He’s an incredibly loyal, loyal friend,” she added.
McMahon attended Trump’s victory party and congratulated him on Twitter.
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