Inside the marriage of Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell, a political power couple who met later in life and got married on Ronald Reagan's birthday
Shana LebowitzMar 20, 2018, 05.31 PM
Timothy D. Easley/AP Images
Mitch McConnell, the US Senate Majority Leader, and Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, met through a mutual friend in the early 1990s. Not long after that, they wed - on Ronald Reagan's birthday.
Together, they're one of the most powerful couples on the US political scene.
A forthcoming book by the conservative journalist Peter Schweizer argues that McConnell and Chao may have softened their stance on China because that's where Chao's family does business - and where most of the couple's wealth comes from.
Here are the highlights of McConnell and Chao's relationship as Republican royalty:
Mitch McConnell, age 76, is the US Senate Majority Leader. He grew up in Alabama and Kentucky and became a senator for Kentucky in 1985.
Elaine Chao, 64, is the US Secretary of Transportation. She previously served as US Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009. Chao moved to the US from Taiwan at age eight and grew up in New York.
McConnell and Chao met through a mutual friend, Stuart Bloch, in Washington, DC in the early 1990s. Bloch and McConnell had met in the 1960s and Bloch was married to Julia Chang Bloch, who was a mentor of Chao's.
Bloch invited McConnell to a candlelit dinner with Chao. "I don't want to say that sparks flew," Bloch told The New York Times, "because that's not the way either of them is." But the couple hit it off right away.
They married on February 6, 1993, choosing that date for three reasons: It's Ronald Reagan's birthday, it was just before Chao's 40th birthday, and it was right before a one-week Senate recess.
McConnell was previously married and has three children from that relationship. He's known to tell people, "People remark that I'm in a mixed marriage. I don't see it that way. In my first marriage, I married a liberal. Now that was a mixed marriage. With Elaine, she and I understand one another."
In 1998, the couple told The Washington Post how they divide household labor. McConnell cooked once in a while and did the laundry; Chao was responsible for fixing things around the house.
Chao has campaigned with her husband. Because McConnell had polio as a child and is averse to backslapping, Chao became the "campaign hugger."
Chao also starred in campaign ads defending McConnell's record on women's issues, for which she received some pushback.
In 2017, President Donald Trump criticized McConnell on Twitter, after McConnell said the White House had unrealistic expectations for Congress. Soon after, reporters asked Chao what she thought of Trump's comments and she said: "I stand by my man — both of them."
The Washington Post reported that McConnell's wealth increased sevenfold in in 10 years, from $3.1 million in 2004 to $22.8 million in 2014. According to The Post, the couple received an inheritance after Chao's mother passed away in 2007.
In the forthcoming book "Secret Empires," Peter Schweizer argues that McConnell and Chao have been lenient on China because that's where most of their wealth is coming from.
Chao's father, James Chao, founded the shipping company Foremost Group in New York in 1964, and Schweizer says it's been successful because of its close ties to the Chinese government.
The couple appear to complement each other personally and professionally. Bloch told The New York Times that Chao is a "tiger wife," adding that she's "made of titanium." Chao told CBS News she calls McConnell her "low-maintenance husband."