doug bailey

More from the TNJ interview with Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville), left, and Gov. Bill Haslam attend an event at the state Capitol in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The current print edition of The Tennessee Journal includes a wide-ranging interview with retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) about his political beginnings, presidential bids, and the legacy of more than 50 years in public service.

Due to space limitations, not everything from the interview could make it into print. So here is some bonus material of Alexander speaking about his longtime relationship with political consultant Doug Bailey, and his role in coming up with Alexander’s 1,000-mile walk around the state as he was making his successful bid for governor in 1978. Bailey, who went on to found The Hotline in 1987, died in 2013.

Here is Alexander discussing his plans for running for governor again after having lost to Democrat Ray Blanton in 1974:

I was through with politics. [Late Tennessean columnist] Larry Daughtrey wrote there will never be a Republican governor for 50 years after ’74. I was practicing law, trying to find a way to make money, and dabbling in business. I bought Blackberry Farm, half of it. And Howard Baker got elected Republican leader in January 1977. He called me to come up there and help him set up the leader’s office. And [Alexander’s wife] Honey said, go on, you’re not doing anything here. So I went there for three months, and I met Doug.

President Carter was already in trouble, so I thought maybe Republicans will come back. And Honey said, ‘Well I don’t want you to run again if you do like you did before — you’ve got to have a sense of purpose and you’ve got to be in touch with the people.’ So we had a big talk about it, and they said what do you like? Well he likes to be outdoors, likes to hike, likes music. So we came up with the idea of the walk and the Washboard Band and spending the night with people instead of going to Rotary Clubs.

Doug at the time, he and John Deardourff were partners, and they were the premier Republican consultants. So he put it to television. And he became very close to me, and I to him, and he was a graduate of Tufts School of Diplomacy and kind of a high-minded person. So when I was elected, he would come down every week from Washington and meet with me and Tom Ingram, and we’d talk about how to be a better governor. Ned McWherter and all of them thought we were just playing politics. We really weren’t. We were doing enough politics to be effective.

Doug worked with me for eight years and tried to help me with how do I recruit this auto company, how do we sell the Better School Program, how do we persuade legislators to vote for the gas tax. The Homecoming idea was something he was very involved in and the Community Days we had in my second campaign.

So he helped design the plan for the walk, and then Lewis Lavine and Keel Hunt went out and mapped it out. They found the families I was going to stay with, marked the route. Every day I’d go out to the X I’d put out the night before, go out and shake hands, going off and doing this and that, and by about 5 o’clock go off with the family, go to their softball game, eat dinner with them in their house. They’d have their friends over, get up in the morning, go to the factory with them, and then go back to the X and start my day. So it was planned spontaneity.


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