The power players behind Ted Cruz's campaign
The senator is backed by a Texas-heavy group of strategists known for conservative combat.
By Katie Glueck
04/20/15 06:37 PM EDT
Ted Cruz is running for president as an outsider, and his relatively lean campaign staff reflects that approach.
The Texas senator, who once played a pivotal role in shutting down the federal government, loves to rail against Washington, and his supporters have embraced the tagline “make D.C. listen.” Cruz was the first presidential contender out of the gates with an official announcement and did so with a core group of staffers that lacks bold-faced Beltway names. It’s largely a Texas-heavy group of strategists plus a handful of operatives with experience doing conservative combat. The Lone Star State Republican’s base begins with the conservative grassroots and with evangelical voters, and several on his team have experience wooing those worlds.
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Here’s a look at the key players in Cruz’s political orbit:
• Chad Sweet is campaign chairman. Sweet is the co-founder of the security-focused Chertoff Group, a group he started with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff after serving as his chief of staff.
• Jeff Roe is campaign manager. Roe is the founder of the Kansas City-based consulting group Axiom Strategies and has worked on a host of congressional races. He also worked for the presidential campaigns of Mike Huckabee in 2008, where he helped lead voter identification efforts, and Rick Perry in 2012, where he worked as a consultant. Sarah Hoeller, who works with Roe at Axiom Strategies, is director of operations.
• Jason Johnson is chief strategist. Johnson, a veteran Texas Republican consultant, spearheaded Cruz’s upstart Senate candidacy in 2011 and 2012, helping him defeat heavy favorite David Dewhurst, the then-lieutenant governor, for the GOP Senate nomination in the primary, before Cruz went on to win the seat. He’s a veteran of plenty of other campaigns in the Lone Star State, including now-Gov. Greg Abbott’s attorney general’s race in 2002 (he also served as Abbott’s chief of staff).
• Nick Muzin is a senior adviser. Muzin, who is also Cruz’s deputy chief of staff, has worked a number of places on the Hill, including for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). That gives Cruz a South Carolina connection that will be useful to him during the primary. Muzin has also helped introduce Cruz to the Jewish Republican donor world.
• Chris Wilson is director of analytics and research. Wilson is an Oklahoma City-based Republican pollster and longtime strategic consultant who at one point served as the executive director of the Republican Party of Texas. His business partner, Chris Perkins, is also involved in Cruz’s effort.
• Jason Miller is senior communications adviser. He was the deputy communications director on former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign and has worked on House and Senate races for members including Rep. Darrell Issa of California and former Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Miller is a partner and executive vice president at the conservative firm Jamestown Associates (which has had its share of clashes with GOP party committees).
• Willie Langston is finance chairman. He’s a prominent Houston businessman and Cruz donor who is chairman of the investment firm Avalon Advisors.
• Catherine Frazier is national press secretary. Frazier was most recently Cruz’s Senate spokeswoman, coming to the Texas senator after years with former Lone Star State Gov. Rick Perry, another possible 2016 contender. Frazier was also with Perry during his brief 2012 presidential bid.
• Rick Tyler is a national spokesman . Tyler, a longtime spokesman for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, joined Cruz’s political arm in February.
• Brian Phillips is rapid response director . He previously served as communications director for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), another tea party darling who is perhaps Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate.
• Austen Furse is policy director. Furse is a Texas businessman and Cruz donor who was director of policy planning under President George H.W. Bush.
• Mark Campbell is political director. Campbell is a longtime GOP consultant who was political director for Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign and has worked on several other presidential campaigns, along with congressional races and for GOP party committees.
• Lauren L ofstrom is finance director. She was a fundraiser for Perry in 2012 and has also worked at the Republican Governors Association.
• Josh Perry is a digital strategist on the campaign, a position he also held in Cruz’s Senate office, where he often tweeted for Cruz and is a prolific Twitter user in his own right. He came up through the shop of Vincent Harris, an Austin, Texas-based digital consultant who helped shepherd Cruz into the spotlight before going to work for Rand Paul, another GOP contender.
• Victoria Coates is senior foreign policy adviser. She is Cruz’s national security adviser in the Senate, a high-profile role given Cruz’s focus on promoting a hawkish foreign policy. She has also advised Perry and served as an aide to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
IN THE STATES
• In Iowa, conservative operative Bryan English is leading the Cruz efforts. He is a former staffer for the hardline Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and has worked as an activist for socially conservative causes, such as opposing same-sex marriage. Jon McClellan, a Cruz regional political director based out of Houston, is also overseeing Iowa.
• New Hampshire political consultant Ethan Zorfas, who has worked in several different roles for Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), is steering the Cruz effort in the Granite State. David Sawyer, another Houston-based regional political director who has often traveled to Cruz’s political events over the past year, is also overseeing New Hampshire.
• In South Carolina, LaDonna Ryggs, an influential grassroots GOP activist from the conservative Upstate region, is spearheading Cruz’s Palmetto State effort.
Keep the Promise is the name shared by four super PACs, which reportedly have already raised at least $31 million for Cruz. Austin attorney Dathan Voelter is treasurer for three of them; Jacquelyn James of New York holds that title for a fourth. The very wealthy Mercer family of New York — Robert and Diana, and their daughter Rebekah — are reportedly backing one of the PACs. Stand for Principle, an Atlanta-based super PAC with ties to Cruz’s college friend, David Panton, and run by activist Maria Strollo Zack, is also backing Cruz. John Drogin, a former Cruz aide who was his 2012 campaign manager, is the executive director of Make D.C. Listen, another PAC backing Cruz and other candidates.