Democratic operatives close to Sen. Charles Schumer (right) say the calm demeanor of his chief of staff, Mike Lynch, is a perfect match for the Senators trademark intensity.
“When there’s a difficult issue, he gets involved and rolls up his sleeves. Anytime it is difficult and political, Mike is there and it seems to go well,” said Jeffrey Forbes, a lobbyist who served as Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) chief of staff from 1999 to 2002 and as his staff director on the Finance Committee in 2003. “He has great instincts and an amazing manner.”
Lynch declined to be interviewed for this story, which hardly surprised those who have known him since he first joined Schumer in 1998, as field director for the New Yorker’s inaugural Senate campaign. Lynch spent the next four years as Schumer’s state director in his personal office and was promoted to chief of staff in 2002. He’s held that position since, except during a 2005 to 2007 European sabbatical to work for the National Democratic Institute.
“We are opposites, personality-wise, but there’s no one whose judgment I trust more. Mike Lynch is just about the best thing that’s happened to me in the Senate,” Schumer said in a statement provided to Roll Call.
Of course, no Democratic Senate chief is considered as powerful as David Krone, top aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.). Krone, hired just after the 2010 midterm elections, is personally close with Reid and is considered to be almost on a peer-to-peer level with other Senators. Krone enjoys direct communications with Senators unmatched by other Democratic chiefs, often placing telephone calls directly to, and receiving them from, Members.
Though Lynch does not fill a similar role for Schumer, he often provides a direct line into leadership for other chiefs of staff. And Lynch tends to be at the center of all things Schumer, who has Reid’s ear and is considered a potential successor to the Majority Leader whenever Reid chooses to step aside.
Lynch, a graduate of James Madison University, began his political career as a receptionist for the late Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.). Lynch advised Aspin on legislation and later followed him to the Pentagon. He later served as President Bill Clinton’s Wisconsin coordinated campaign director and a Midwest political director for the Democratic National Committee. This experience has made Lynch well-rounded and hard to pigeonhole, said Democratic operatives who have followed his career.
These attributes, combined with his loyalty to Schumer, an ability to channel the Senator’s energy and a knack for keeping Schumer focused on specific priorities are what make Lynch so valuable — and potentially powerful should his boss continue to rise.
“The thing that impressed me more than anything else is how honest Mike is in providing advice to Sen. Schumer,” political strategist Geoffrey Garin said. “And Sen. Schumer is receptive to that from Mike. There are some people who tell their bosses what they want to hear. Mike tells Sen. Schumer what he needs to hear but does it in a way that Sen. Schumer really hears it.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.