Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the country’s most prominent lawmakers, is facing a well-funded Democratic challenge from former Marine Corps combat pilot Amy McGrath for his Kentucky seat.
Here are four facts to know about the top-ranked Senate Republican.
1. A long professional career in politics
McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1985 and has become Kentucky’s longest-serving senator.
At the time of his first election, Kentucky was not as red as it is now. McConnell was the first Republican to win a statewide race there in 16 years, according to his campaign site.
He previously served as the Senate minority leader, the Senate majority whip and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.
He is the state’s senior senator, serving alongside Sen. Rand Paul.
McConnell graduated with honors from the University of Louisville, where he was also student body president. He got his law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he became president of the Student Bar Association.
Before his election to the Senate, he served in Jefferson County as the county judge-executive.
His wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, also served for eight years as secretary of labor under President George W. Bush.
They have three daughters.
2. A focus on judicial branch confirmations
Since becoming the Senate’s majority leader when the GOP assumed control in 2015, McConnell has worked to bolster the conservative presence in federal courts.
“Under McConnell’s leadership, the United States Senate has fundamentally transformed the federal judiciary by confirming pro-Constitution judges at a clip typically reserved for the first Saturday in May,” his campaign site boasts. “Additionally, McConnell prioritized the confirmation of a record 53 circuit courts judges…He also led the confirmations of 162 district court judges.”
His focus on the federal bench has fueled attacks from the left.
In 2016, he played a major role in the Senate majority’s effort to deny then-President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a confirmation hearing for roughly eight months. Then, in 2020, he helped spearhead the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the weeks before Election Day.
The move solidifies a 6-3 conservative majority on the nation’s highest court for a generation.
3. A sense of humor
Days after Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation, which happened on former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s birthday, McConnell described it as a “wonderful birthday present for Hillary Clinton.”
When detractors called him “Cocaine Mitch” over allegations that drugs were found on a shipping vessel owned by his in-laws, his campaign started selling T-shirts cheekily acknowledging the phrase.
“Senator McConnell proves every election cycle that having a sense of humor is the most valuable and least abundant commodity in politics,” campaign spokesman Josh Holmes told the Associated Press at the time. “He managed to turn a slanderous attack on his family into an online movement of his supporters.”
And when former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick urged Nike to cancel sneakers bearing the Betsy Ross version of an early American flag, McConnell said he’d “make the first order” if Nike or another shoemaker decided to release the shoes.
4. Policy positions
As a lifelong conservative, McConnell opposed overreaching government regulation, tax hikes and increased government spending.
He was among the leading opponents of ObamaCare and has supported a coronavirus relief plan with a far lower price tag than those endorsed by both the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi amid stalled negotiations on Capitol Hill.
Still, some critics from the right have knocked him for resisting some of President Trump’s populist campaign promises.
McConnell’s stance on foreign policy has shifted over the years.
He used to support an agenda based on international aid – but has shifted toward shows of strength and heavy sanctions, including those on Russia and Iran.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.