GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill Lee taps Chris Devaney of Lookout Mountain as campaign manager

Bill Lee

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Lee today named former state GOP chairman Chris Devaney of Lookout Mountain as his campaign manager and senior adviser.

The Williamson County businessman also named Tony Niknejad as his policy director. Other additions include Caroline Davidson, who will be joining the finance team. The national Republican political consulting firm Majority Strategies will lead the campaign's direct mail efforts.

"It's humbling to have so many talented people join our efforts to help share my vision for Tennessee," said Lee in a news release. "I'm grateful for the team we're assembling. This is one more indicator of the excitement and enthusiasm we are seeing all across this state for our campaign."

Devaney, a former state director for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and who previously worked for then-U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., was chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2009 to 2015.

photo Bill Lee is running for Governor of Tennessee.
photo In this Dec. 6, 2014, file photo, state Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney speaks to the party's executive committee meeting in the state House chamber in Nashville, Tenn. Devaney announced on Monday, March 23, 2015, that he plans to step down to become executive director of the Chattanooga-based Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, File)

While he was chairman in 2010, the party won complete control of the General Assembly for the first time since the 19th Century took seven of the state's nine congressional seats and captured the governor's mansion.

Republicans later won "super majorities" of more than two thirds membership in both the state House and Senate in 2012 contests. Devaney later initiated the state GOP's "Red to the Roots" program aimed at electing local officials and judges across Tennessee.

In 2015, Devaney stepped down from the party to become executive director of CNP Haiti, a Christian mission organization working to prevent childhood malnutrition.

"Bill Lee is someone I have had so much respect for over the years," Devaney said in a statement. "His conservative values and principles, and the fact he is not a career politician, are the reasons why I joined his team. I'm excited to be a part of this campaign and look forward to helping Bill win next year."

Niknejad most recently served as Tennessee state director for the American Federation for Children, which promotes charter schools and school vouchers. Niknejad worked with Kentucky Republicans in their recapturing of the state House in 2016, as well as two Republican campaigns for congressional candidates in Georgia and Tennessee.

He has also served as a policy staffer at the Tennessee Senate and is the former chairman of the Davidson County Young Republicans.

Caroline Davidson most recently served as finance director for Karen Handel's special election race in Georgia this year, the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history.

Lee is the chairman of the family-owned Lee Co., which provides heating and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and other building services across Middle Tennessee and parts of two other states.

He recently wrapped up a visit to all 95 of Tennessee's counties.

Earlier today, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., announced she was joining the GOP field which in addition to Lee features state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; Knoxville businessman and former state economic commissioner Randy Boyd and state House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.