One of the highest-ranking women in government, Ms. McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, has helped steer a more than $1 billion empire built on branding sizzle and sleight of hand. She found politics late in life as a business-minded Republican during two unsuccessful United States Senate campaigns in Connecticut.
She and her husband, Vince — the W.W.E.’s public face and musclebound showman even into his 70s — have been among the most prolific donors to Mr. Trump’s foundation. Wrestling was already the family business on Mr. McMahon’s side. The couple had met in church in North Carolina, when Ms. McMahon, the tomboy daughter of a budget analyst and a shop foreman, was 13. She was 17 when they married, joining him at East Carolina University and graduating early to match his exit year. Once out of school, Ms. McMahon worked as a paralegal in Washington, where Mr. McMahon’s father had founded a regional wrestling company, Capitol Wrestling, enlisting his son as a promoter and television announcer.
By the early 1980s, the McMahons had moved to Greenwich, Conn., with higher ambitions and a new plan. Her pitch seems familiar now: a brash, unconventional business titan was the cure for what ailed Washington. But her task was formidable, requiring a political newcomer in a solid-blue state to embrace the biography that made her unique and distance herself from its excesses.
Inevitably, though, wrestling’s underside came to the campaign fore: questions about safety shortcomings and the deaths of several relatively young wrestlers; accusations of sexual harassment against top executives from some of the company’s “ring boys”; a congressional investigation that found “pervasive” steroid use across an industry refusing to address the problem. But she lost by 12 points to Richard Blumenthal, her Democratic opponent. When another seat opened two years later, Ms. McMahon tried again, against longer oddsmore » « less