GOP ‘Message Guru’ Heads for K Street

Antonia Ferrier joins Forbes-Tate after 13 years handling communications for top Republicans on both sides of the Capitol.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and aide Antonia Ferrier, gesture to a visitor in the senate subway before the senate luncheons in the Capitol. 
National Journal
March 17, 2014, 3:27 p.m.

Grow­ing up in Lex­ing­ton, Mass., after her par­ents emig­rated from Bri­tain, Ant­o­nia Fer­ri­er found her­self sur­roun­ded by lib­er­als. “It was an ex­cep­tion­ally Demo­crat­ic ho­met­own,” she said.

So Fer­ri­er was pretty much a main­stream Demo­crat when she headed to Wash­ing­ton and Amer­ic­an Uni­versity in 1992. “I al­ways knew I’d end up in D.C.,” she said. “After high school I knew I wanted to be in­volved in polit­ics and policy.”

Things changed after gradu­ation when she joined Bar­bour Grif­fith & Ro­gers, a lobby shop foun­ded by Haley Bar­bour after he stepped down as chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee in 1997. One of the prin­cipals at the firm had been an aide to former Sen. Richard Lugar, the Re­pub­lic­an from In­di­ana, and after much dis­cus­sion and de­bate on is­sues far and wide, Fer­ri­er had an epi­phany. “I came to real­ize I was a Re­pub­lic­an,” she said.

Fer­ri­er was still in ex­plor­a­tion mode, though, and she moved to New York in 1998 to take a job with a boutique com­mu­nic­a­tions firm. That las­ted just two years. “The 2000 elec­tion happened,” she said, “and I just knew I needed to come back to D.C.”

Since then Fer­ri­er, now 40, has blos­somed in­to what The Wash­ing­ton Post once de­scribed as “one of the top Re­pub­lic­an mes­sage gurus on Cap­it­ol Hill.”

She star­ted at the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee un­der former Sen. Bill Frist of Ten­ness­ee. When Frist moved up to Sen­ate ma­jor­ity lead­er in 2003, Fer­ri­er moved up with him, work­ing in the lead­er’s press of­fice.

Late in 2003 Fer­ri­er moved to the of­fice of then-Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Re­pub­lic­an, and man­aged her com­mu­nic­a­tions for more than three years.

After a brief stint at Man­ning Selvage & Lee, Fer­ri­er real­ized she wasn’t done yet on Cap­it­ol Hill and moved to the House to handle press for then-Minor­ity Whip Roy Blunt. When Blunt op­ted not to run for whip again in 2009, then-Minor­ity Lead­er John Boehner brought Fer­ri­er on board and she was the voice of House Re­pub­lic­ans in re­spond­ing to every move made by the new Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In 2010, Fer­ri­er moved back across the Cap­it­ol to take over the com­mu­nic­a­tions shop of Sen. Or­rin Hatch, a Utah Re­pub­lic­an, when it ap­peared that Hatch would be­come chair­man of the Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee if the GOP won a ma­jor­ity in the midterm elec­tions. “That’s a com­mit­tee of gi­ants,” she said, mak­ing it an op­por­tun­ity too good to pass up.

In­stead it was Boehner who rose to a po­s­i­tion of great­er power, but Fer­ri­er said she has no re­grets. This week she is look­ing back on a rich and dra­mat­ic ca­reer with Re­pub­lic­ans on both sides of the Cap­it­ol to take a po­s­i­tion as seni­or vice pres­id­ent at the lob­by­ing firm For­bes-Tate.

“I’ll deeply miss hav­ing Ant­o­nia around,” Hatch said in a trib­ute on the Sen­ate floor this month, “not only for her sage ad­vice and coun­sel, but also for her wit and sense of hu­mor, and her will­ing­ness for straight talk.”

Fer­ri­er has her own fond memor­ies of both the House and the Sen­ate, in­clud­ing little dif­fer­ences like the fact that you can have a Black­Berry on the House floor but not on the Sen­ate floor.

“The House is a won­der­ful place,” Fer­ri­er said. “Sen­ate snobs are snobs at their own risk, be­cause the heart and soul of both parties really does reside in the House.”

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