Sen. Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., generally is not known for getting emotional, but on Thursday the normally taciturn Senate majority leader choked up as he said farewell to his longtime spokesman.
Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell was praising his departing spokesman and former deputy chief of staff Don Stewart – who is leaving for a job as executive vice president of public affairs at the Association of Global Automakers – when he became weepy.
“For more than 12 years I entrusted Stew with my words and my goals and my reputation and he’s never let me down,” McConnell said as his voice began to quaver. “He never flagged, he never slowed.”
After a long pause to gather himself, McConnell continued, saying that “Stew” was “totally trustworthy, completely reliable, unbelievably competent.”
He added that Stewart was “the greatest luxury a leader could have.”
Stewart, who previously worked on the staffs of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and former Sens. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Phil Gramm, R-Texas, before joining McConnell’s team, will oversee the Association of Global Automakers’ government affairs and communications activities.
“I am excited to join such a vibrant, innovative, and globally competitive industry, particularly one focused on increasing jobs and opportunities across our country,” Stewart said in a statement. “I look forward to expanding and integrating Global Automakers engagement in Washington and across the country.”
Despite his reputation for stoicism, this is not the first time McConnell has shown his emotions when saying goodbye to a longtime staffer.
In 2010, the Kentucky Republican broke down in tears on the Senate floor when speaking about his departing chief of staff Kyle Simmons.
“Now that he's leaving, I'm just as confident that our office will carry on just as it always has because he leaves a fantastic team behind,” McConnell said, according to CNN. “He's made the right decision, as he usually does," but he "leaves behind an office and a boss that will miss him terribly."