Inside Mitch McConnell And Elaine Chao's Marriage

Mitch McConnell has a huge amount of political influence as the Senate Majority Leader. On top of that, he's married to one of the most powerful women in Washington, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. Chao was also the Secretary of Labor during George W. Bush's administration, the first Asian-American woman to be a member of a presidential cabinet (via Politico).


Chao and her family immigrated from Taiwan when she was eight years old. She attended Mount Holyoke College, before receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School, per the US Department of Transportation. She also previously served as the Director of the Peace Corps. McConnell and Chao often work together, whether on the campaign trail or in their respective offices. Take a look inside of one of the most powerful partnerships in the country.

Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao were introduced by powerful friends

Chao and McConnell were set up by their friends Stuart Bloch and Julia Chang Bloch (via The New York Times). Bloch was a lawyer and an old friend of McConnell's, while Chang Bloch mentored Chao. "I don't want to say that sparks flew, because that's not the way either of them is," Bloch said of the meeting. Though Chao was involved with the White House counsel to George H.W. Bush, C. Boyden Gray, she chose to pursue a relationship with McConnell. The two married in 1993, and their influence in Washington has only grown.


However, power comes with trade-offs. In an interview with CNN, Chao said that she sometimes regrets not having children. "I try not to have too many regrets," she said. "But I will say to young women ... in my generation, we were taught that we can have it all. It doesn't work like that. So, I try to counsel young women, regardless as to whether they want it or not, there are trade-offs and sacrifices in life."

Elaine Chao has Mitch McConnell's back

Chao was a major asset to McConnell in his re-election campaigns (via The New York Times). Friends reported she could list the names of people who donated to McConnell. She's also a strong socializer with a wide network who hosts orientations for spouses of Republican senators. Chao is friendly with both conservatives and Democrats from the Obama administration. McConnell often seems to use his wife while campaigning to soften his image.


Though she's certainly no pushover. In 2018, when a group of immigration protestors confronted her husband as he and Chao were leaving an event in Georgetown, Chao immediately jumped into the fray, yelling, "Leave my husband alone!" (via NBC News).

Chao has also helped McConnell in other ways. In 2019, email exchanges obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that McConnell donors were granted meetings with Chao at his request (via The Daily Beast). While Chao and McConnell's offices maintained that cooperation between senators and cabinet members were normal, others contended that Chao was showing unfair favoritism to both Kentucky residents and her husband's supporters.