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.”