he is the top-ranking Republican in the 110th Congress, which convened January 3, 2007. He is an advocate of conservative principles, receiving a perfect score from the American Conservative Union in 2006. McConnell won re-election in 2008 against Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford.
Early life and educationEdit
McConnell was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama to Julia Shockley and Addison Mitchell McConnell,. His official Senate website biography omits his Alabama birthplace, stating that he was "Born on February 20, 1942, and raised in south Louisville". McConnell was challenged early in life when he was stricken with polio at age 2: "When I was two years old, I came down with an infection that felt a lot like the flu. But after the fever passed, my left leg had gone lame. For two years my mother put me through a physical therapy regimen taught to her by the doctors at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, founded by President Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia. From age two to four, I was not allowed to walk or run. But after two years of my mother's care, I was able to have a normal life. A lot of kids at that time, in the 1940s, weren't so lucky. Some were paralyzed for life. Some were sentenced to the iron lung. Many died." McConnell was raised in south Louisville, Kentucky, he attended duPont Manual High School and in 1964 graduated with honors from the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences, where he was student body president and member of Phi Kappa Tau. He graduated in 1967 from the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he was elected president of the Student Bar Association. McConnell became a member of the 100th Training Unit, United States Army Reserve, Louisville, Kentucky, during his final semester of law school, and reported for his six months of active service, primarily for training, in July 1967. After induction at Fort Knox, Kentucky, McConnell was released from the military in August with an honorable discharge due to a diagnosis of optic neuritis.
McConnell is a member of the Baptist Church. His first wife was Sherrill Redmon who is now director of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Archives at Smith College; later divorced, they have three daughters, Elly, Claire, and Porter. His second wife, whom he married in 1993, is Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Labor. In 1992, McConnell teamed with the University of Louisville to create the McConnell Center.
Career prior to the SenateEdit
In March 1967, during his final semester of law school, McConnell gained experience on Capitol Hill as an intern under Senator John Sherman Cooper, later as an assistant to Senator Marlow Cook, and was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Gerald R. Ford. From 1978 until his election to the Senate, he was the Jefferson County Judge/Executive, the top political office in Jefferson County, which includes Louisville.
Initial election and subsequent re-electionsEdit
In 1984, McConnell ran against two-term Democratic Senator Dee Huddleston. The race wasn't decided until the last returns came in, and McConnell won by a razor-thin margin — less than half a percentage point. McConnell was the only Republican Senate challenger to win that year, despite the perception that 1984 was a disaster for Democrats. Part of McConnell's success came from a series of television campaign spots called "Where's Dee", which featured a group of bloodhounds trying to find Huddleston, implying that Huddleston's attendance record in the Senate was less than stellar. It is likely that he was helped by Ronald Reagan's 21-point win in Kentucky that year. His campaign bumper stickers and television ads asked voters to "Switch to Mitch". In 1990, McConnell faced a tough reelection contest against former Louisville mayor Harvey I. Sloane, winning by 4.5 points. He soundly defeated Steve Beshear in 1996, even as Bill Clinton narrowly carried the state. In keeping with a tradition of humorous and effective television ads in his campaigns, McConnell's campaign ran television ads in 1996 that warned voters to not "Get Besheared" and included images of sheep being sheared. In 2002, he was reelected with the largest majority by a Republican candidate in Kentucky history. In 2008, McConnell defeated Democratic opponent Bruce Lunsford by 5.8%, 100,000 votes.
McConnell was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 1998 and 2000 election cycles; Republicans maintained control of the Senate in both. McConnell was first elected as Majority Whip in the 108th Congress and unanimously re-elected by Republicans in the Senate on November 17, 2004. Sen. Bill Frist, the Majority Leader, did not seek re-election in the 2006 elections. After Republicans lost control of the Senate in November 2006, they elected McConnell to replace Frist as Republican Leader.
- McConnell has served on the following committees:
- Member, Senate Committee on Appropriations
- Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Defense
- Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
- Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
- Member, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
- Subcommittee on Domestic and Foreign Marketing, Inspection, and Plant and Animal Health
- Subcommittee on Nutrition and Food Assistance, Sustainable and Organic Agriculture, and General Legislation
- Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry, and Credit
- Member, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
- Ex Officio, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
War in IraqEdit
McConnell has been an advocate of the War in Iraq and was an ardent supporter of President George W. Bush and his policies. However, regarding the failure of the Iraqi government to make reforms, McConnell said the following on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: "The Iraqi government is a huge disappointment. Republicans overwhelmingly feel disappointed about the Iraqi government. I read just this week that a significant number of the Iraqi parliament want to vote to ask us to leave. I want to assure you, Wolf, if they vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply with their request." On the June 17, 2007, edition of CBS News' Face the Nation, McConnell said, "Most members of my conference in the Senate believe [that September will be] the critical point to evaluate where we are ... I think everybody anticipates that there's going to be a new strategy in the fall. I find growing support in the Senate among Republicans, and for that matter, some Democrats as well, for the recommendations of the [Baker-Hamilton] Iraq Study Group" On July 9, 2007, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky at Fort Campbell, speaking to a contingent of troops about to ship out for a 15-month deployment to Iraq, McConnell said, "The majority of the public has decided the Iraq effort is not worth it," he said. "That puts a lot of pressure on Congress to act because public opinion in a democracy is not irrelevant."
2008 re-election campaignEdit
On November 2, 2008 the website of The New Republic reported that flyers questioning McConnell's sexuality and the reasons for his 1967 discharge were being distributed in Kentucky. In October 2008, McConnell and Democratic nominee Bruce Lunsford were tied in the polls. In November, McConnell won re-election against Lunsford.