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Stew’s next stop

Longtime McConnell spokesman is heading to the Association of Global Automakers

Don Stewart is leaving the Senate after more than two decades. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Don Stewart is leaving the Senate after more than two decades. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Don Stewart, the outgoing deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a Senate fixture for more than two decades, has his next destination.

Stewart is expected to finish up in the Kentucky Republican’s office this week before starting at the Association of Global Automakers on March 25.

“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.”

The association said his role as executive vice president of public affairs would include oversight of communications and government affairs activities for the alliance.

Known as one of the Capitol’s most skilled communicators (and a constant Twitter presence, often with photos of dogs), Stewart informed McConnell’s staff a week ago that he would be leaving the office later this month.

As word spread last week that Stew, as he’s known on the Hill, would be moving on from the Senate, there was an outpouring of support and admiration from current and former colleagues.

That was particularly true on Twitter of younger communications professionals who have gone on to great achievements of their own, like General Election global public affairs director Tara DiJulio, who worked in various roles in the Senate including as communications director for former Sens. Dan Coats and Bob Corker.

“What some may not know about @StewSays is that he never turned down a mentoring coffee. And my 20-something y/o self always will appreciate that. Thank you, Stew,” DiJulio said. “Congrats on one hell of a run in the Senate. Cheers to your next chapter!”

David Popp, who has been McConnell’s communications director, sharing a windowless office with Stewart, weighed in on the departure Monday.

“Stew was more than our top comms guy. He knows every. Single. Person. In the Capitol. The police officers. The support staff. Everyone. The people who take care of us, he took care of them,” Popp said in an email.

“He and I go to Cups every day at 1:00 no matter what. We spend more time talking to everyone else than reporters in the hallway during those trips. Everyone stops to say hi and tell them they are Bringing in their dogs on Friday,” Popp said. “Or to ask him if he wants to go to the Nats game this weekend.”

It is a reasonable bet that if Stew is in town on March 31, he will be spending the afternoon at Nationals Park. It is Pups in the Park day.

Before coming to McConnell’s office about 13 years ago, he worked for GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Phil Gramm of Texas, as well as Paul Coverdell of Georgia. He also previously served in the U.S. Army.

Tributes are likely this week at the Capitol as Stew prepares to leave, but the move downtown won’t be entirely new terrain.

The membership of the Global Automakers includes many foreign-based car companies that have significant manufacturing facilities in the United States. And that includes Toyota, which has a large operation in Kentucky.

“Stewart is a veteran of nearly every debate on Capitol Hill over the past 20 years and comes with a proven track record as an effective leader and key strategist in public affairs, issue management and strategic communications,” John Bozzella, the Global Automakers president and CEO, said in a statement.

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