Attention, Tennessee Republicans: It looks like you got your wish. Now get to work.
With this week's managed announcement that a Fred Thompson for President campaign is imminent, area GOP political operatives are positively giddy.
While they eagerly await their first opportunity to stuff an envelope or start phone-banking Iowa, the nascent organization first must get off the ground. Before you freeze your tail off in New Hampshire, you need somebody to tell you which doors to knock on.
It may be a bit soon to really know who all the players will be, but there is always an inner circle of advisors and confidantes who will push and prod their candidate to the finish line — whether the contest ends in ultimate victory or not. They are the ones who will help come up with the political strategy and policy platforms that will shape a campaign. They also will raise the money.
From multiple interviews and conversations, NashvillePost.com has attempted to identify Thompson's circle of intimates, his "inner Fred."
These are the political operatives who have been there for him on previous campaigns, are with him now, or can be expected to play a significant role in the coming months. In no way is this or could this be a complete list — it's just a political junkie's guide to faces to watch.
The D.C. Circle:
Jeri Kehn Thompson — Fred Thompson married Jeri Kehn on June 29, 2002, in Naperville, Ill. She was a political media consultant at the once-powerful Washington firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson and Hand.
Before that firm merged with DLA Piper in 2002, some of her "co-workers" were former presidential contender and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the late Secretary of State Lloyd Bentsen, and Elliot Abrams, assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, to name just a few.
Prior to her tenure at Verner Liipfert, she worked for the U. S. Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee.
She and her husband have a four-year-old daughter and a six-month-old son.
Howard Baker — Baker represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1967 until 1985, retiring as Senate Majority Leader.
After leaving the Senate, Baker was tapped by then-President Reagan to serve as White House chief of staff. The move was considered a strategic step to better the relationship between the administration and Congress. Reagan was under fire at the time for the Iran-Contra affair, and the addition of the personable and popular Baker quelled anxiety in the U.S. Senate.
Baker, who was briefly a candidate for president in 1980, is best known nationally for his role as the lead Republican in the Watergate hearings, when Thompson served as his legal counsel.
In 2005, Baker retired as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, a position to which he had been appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001. Baker is now senior counsel to the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, of which his grandfather was a founder.
Ken Reitz — Reitz is a senior counselor at the Washington-based political campaign and commercial advertising firm 360Advantage. 360Advantage is a joint venture of the powerful consulting firms of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, Burson-Marsteller, BKSH & Associates and Direct Impact.
Reitz, who was CEO of Burson-Marsteller U.S. prior to joining its offshoot, has served as deputy chairman and political director of the Republican National Committee, executive vice president of MGM Records, and a founding partner in Mike Curb Productions, among other jobs.
Among his "event production" credits are the 1980 Republican National Convention, the 1973 Presidential Inauguration Events, a "World Series of Poker" television special and dozens of television commercials.
Among the more colorful aspects of Reitz's history is his having been identified by the Washington Post in 1972 as a "college director in charge of 'hiring provocateurs' for demonstrations" for then-President Richard Nixon. One of his colleagues at the time was Donald H. Segretti, who was later convicted of criminal charges arising from the dirty-tricks operation he ran for Nixon's campaign.
Ed Gillespie — Gillespie was selected by Pres. George W. Bush to be chairman of the Republican National Committee, a position he held from July 2003 to January 2005. He is currently the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Gillespie, along with Jack Quinn (former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore), founded Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a bipartisan lobbying firm that also is a partner in Reitz's 360Advantage.
During the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court, Gillespie worked with Thompson as an advisor to the White House and Roberts to ensure a successful confirmation.
Tom Collamore — Collamore is a former vice president of public affairs at Altria, formerly known as the Phillip Morris Co., and has been described as Thompson's "campaign manager in waiting" by some media accounts.
Collamore served the Reagan administration as special assistant to Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige and was staff secretary to Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1985. He was a member of Bush's presidential transition team in 1988, eventually being named assistant secretary of commerce in 1989.
Mark Corallo — Corallo is the founder and principal of the consulting firm Corallo Media Strategies, LLC.
Prior to striking out on his own, Corallo served as public affairs director for the U.S. Department of Justice, communications director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, press secretary to U.S. Representative and then chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Bob Livingston (R-La.), and as press secretary for the 2000 Republican National Committee's national campaign effort.
Michael Toner — Toner is a partner in the D.C. office of the international law firm Bryan Cave LLP, where he heads the election law and government ethics practice. He is also a senior advisor to Bryan Cave Strategies.
Before joining the firm earlier this year, Toner served as the chairman of the Federal Election Commission, an appointee of President George W. Bush. Toner has also served as chief counsel of the Republican National Committee, general counsel of the Bush-Cheney Transition Team, general counsel of the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign, and counsel to the Dole/Kemp Presidential Campaign in 1996.
Tom Daffron — Daffron is the COO of the Jefferson Consulting Group, based in Washington. Prior to joining JCG, Daffron served as chief of staff to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thompson, and William Cohen of Maine. He also was a speechwriter for Sen. Charles Percy of Illinois and national campaign manager for the presidential campaign of North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
Tom Ingram — Ingram, who is Sen. Lamar Alexander's chief of staff, has his feet firmly set in both Washington and Tennessee.
Ingram most recently turned around what was the faltering campaign of Sen. Bob Corker, but is also widely credited with being the man who dreamed up Thompson's red pickup truck for his first Senate campaign and the red plaid shirt that became Alexander's signature as he won election for governor of Tennessee. Both were indelible images that became icons for the respective candidates.
During Alexander's presidential runs, Ingram was intimately involved, while also being a founder of the Ingram Group, a Nashville based public relations firm.
Zach Wamp — Wamp has represented Tennessee's 3rd Congressional district since 1995. The Chattanooga congressman is recognized as having been one of Thompson's biggest cheerleaders, encouraging him to enter the race.
The Tennessee Circle
Ted Lazenby — Fred 'Ted' W. Lazenby is the retired chairman & CEO of Southlife Holding Co.
A life insurance executive for almost 40 years, Lazenby spent most of this time at National Life & Accident Insurance Co., which American General acquired in 1982. Lazenby then founded Southlife Holding Co., retiring in 1994. A major national campaign fundraiser, Lazenby was state finance chair for Thompson and headed Tennessee fundraising for George W. Bush's 2000 campaign. Lazenby is the nephew of the late Richard Brock, who headed Brock Candy.
Mark Tipps — Tipps has been a trial lawyer since 1985, now a partner in the Nashville law firm of Walker Tipps and Malone.
A native of Chattanooga, Tipps also has served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Bill Frist for four years and as deputy chief counsel to Thompson during the U.S. Senate's special investigation of campaign fundraising in the 1996 presidential election.
Gus Puryear — Puryear is the executive VP/secretary/general counsel at Corrections Corp of America, having been named an officer in the company in January 2001. Puryear is a member of the board of directors of Nashville Bank and Trust. He served as legislative director and counsel to Frist, as a debate advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, and as counsel along with Tipps during the U.S. Senate's special investigation of campaign fundraising in the 1996 presidential election.
Bob Davis — A long-time Republican operative, and now Tennessee Republican Party Chairman, Davis will have to walk a fine line during the Republican primary season. While most of his political career has been with the state Republican Party, Davis served as Thompson's state director from 1994 to 2002, Thompson's entire tenure in the U.S. Senate.
Steve Gill — The often-controversial Gill has been another of Thompson's most public cheerleaders. Most recently, the former congressional candidate-turned-radio personality, has published The Fred Factor: How Fred Thompson May Change The Face Of The '08 Campaign. (It will be interesting, in this age of presidential candidates penning the de rigueur book, to see whether Thompson will simply defer to Gill's treatise.)
Beth Halteman Harwell — Nashville's only Republican in the Tennessee House of Represenatives also served as chair of the Tennessee Republican Party while Thompson was in the U.S. Senate. By all accounts, she and Thompson have remained close and he has trusted her assessment of Tennessee's political landscape throughout the last decade.