By TOM HUMPHREY
While Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford Jr. engage in bitter political warfare, their campaign commanders say they continue to be personal friends.
“We agreed when we took these jobs to touch base every now and then, check in with each other as friends from time to time,” said Tom Ingram, Corker’s campaign manager. “We’ve done some of that.”
“Tom is a good guy,” said Beecher Frasier, Ford’s campaign manager. “Why wouldn’t we remain friends? He’s trying do what he thinks is best. I’m trying to do what I think is best. There’s no reason a difference of opinion should lead to hard feelings.”
Ingram, 60, a married father of four, is a former Nashville newspaper reporter who first came to Tennessee political fame as manager of Lamar Alexander’s gubernatorial campaigns.
Alexander lost the first campaign in 1974, a year before Frasier was born, then won the second race four years later after adopting Ingram’s idea of wearing a red plaid shirt to project an “average guy” image.
Frasier, 31, grew up on a Cumberland County farm. He got a degree in elementary education from David Lipscomb University in Nashville, a Church of Christ-affiliated school that is also Ingram’s alma mater. He and his wife, Becky, are expecting their first child next month.
As a college senior, Frasier served as an intern at the state legislature and came to know Lincoln Davis, then a state senator whose district included Cumberland County. Instead of following prior career plans of becoming a teacher, Frasier wound up working on Davis’ legislative staff.
That, in turn, led to serving as campaign manager for Davis, first in a successful 2000 state Senate re-election campaign, then a 2002 race for the 4th District U.S. House seat.
After Davis won the House seat, Frasier became the congressman’s chief of staff in Washington. Ingram, in turn, managed Alexander’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2002 and became Alexander’s chief of staff in Washington.
Ingram came in late as Corker’s campaign manager, taking a leave of absence as Alexander’s chief of staff to replace Ben Mitchell in the job Sept. 29. Polls at the time showed the Republican steadily losing ground to Ford.
The two men knew each other before they wound up in Washington. In fact, Frasier says he went to Ingram for advice before taking the chief of staff position.
In Washington, their mutual interest in politics and frequent collaboration in Tennessee congressional delegation endeavors led to friendship, despite age differences and the opposing political affiliations of their bosses, both men say.
“We’d go out for dinner on occasion. We have a lot to talk about,” said Frasier. “I think the biggest problem with politics is people across party lines aren’t able to work with each other.”
Both men say they intend to return to their Washington jobs after the campaign, win or lose.
(Contact Tom Humphrey of The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee at www.knoxnews.com.)