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A Boost for the GOP Conference

The Senate Republican Conference has two new staff leaders. Tom Ingram has recently assumed the staff director position for the organization, and Matt Sonnesyn is the new deputy staff director.

[IMGCAP(1)]Ingram has a long history with Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the chairman of the Conference, and he also serves as chief of staff in the Senator’s personal office.

He started that job in 2003 after working in the private sector. During the private-sector stint, he had a chance to interact with Alexander, who was then governor of Tennessee.

Ingram, 61, is from Nashville, Tenn., and has four children. He earned his undergraduate degree from Lipscomb University in Nashville. He also has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee.

“I love it, or I wouldn’t be here,” Ingram said of his new position. He signed on to help Alexander make “the Senate be more effective and the Conference be more successful, and that’s what we think we do.”

Ingram said he hopes to accomplish those goals by “having the Republicans have a good, strong, proactive agenda that attracts enough Democrats to get results.”

Sonnesyn also is working to implement Alexander’s vision and “to make the Conference office a service center for every Republican Senator.”

The deputy staff director is from Chicago and completed a double major

in international relations and Spanish at Principia College in Elsah, Ill. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1999 and then went on to earn a master’s in public policy with a focus in international security from Harvard University in 2002.

Sonnesyn has worked with Alexander since 2001, after the Senator found him as a researcher in graduate school.

“I got an e-mail from my associate dean, saying that Lamar Alexander was looking for a Republican researcher,” Sonnesyn told Climbers. The dean didn’t know of any other Republican researchers in the graduate school, so Sonnesyn got the interview.

Since then, he has worked on Alexander’s Senate campaign, served as a legislative assistant for national security affairs in the Senator’s personal office, and worked as a senior adviser for messaging for the Senator. He was the primary staffer who worked on Alexander’s successful America COMPETES Act.

Sonnesyn, 30, recently lost 60 pounds through a combination of the Atkins diet and hiking in the Canadian Rockies, Yosemite and Shenandoah National Park. He is also a huge fan of the television show Battlestar Galactica — as is Climbers. Go Gaius Baltar!

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