From North Carolina to the nation’s capital
Whit Askew brings bipartisan flair to our team
Whit Askew has always been a relationship builder. At age 10, when his family moved from one small North Carolina town to a slightly bigger one, Whit went door to door, asking his neighbors if they had kids he could play with.
It’s not all that far of a leap from an eager child making connections to the career Whit has built in political campaigning, government relations and advocacy.
A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Whit joined Subject Matter this summer after six years as vice president of government relations at the American Gaming Association. Before that, he spent five years leading a political action committee for then-Speaker of the House John Boehner.
We sat down with Whit to talk about the greatest and most challenging moment of his career, why he’s excited to be here, and that time John Boehner gave him sartorial advice.
Subject Matter: What has been one of the high points of your career? And tell us about one of your greatest challenges.
Whit: One of the greatest moments was sparked by a challenge: When Republicans lost the majority in the House in 2006. The GOP’s political obituary had been written. I was working for Republican Leader John Boehner, and being in the minority in the U.S. House of Representatives is terrible — you lose all day, every day. Not ideal circumstances, but we didn’t hang our heads for too long and from that point on, our mission was to earn our way back to a majority.
Fast forward to summer 2010. That’s when it became clear we had a fighting chance to win back seats. By fall, amid the rise of the Tea Party movement, it became even clearer that a wave was building. On election night, we won 63 net seats to earn the largest House GOP majority since World War II.
It was clearly a historic moment for Congress and for our country. I don’t know how you could ever top being part of something that special.
SM: What excites you about working at Subject Matter?
Whit: Being a part of this incredibly dynamic team. What our firm provides to clients day in and day out on a range of complex issues is exciting. And being on the front end of building out the bipartisan, Republican side of the firm is a big reason some of my colleagues and I are here now. The plan is to help support and strengthen our full-service operation.
Not only am I excited to help exceed our clients’ expectations, but what I like about Subject Matter is that we go about doing so the right way. In the business we’re in, it’s critical to maintain integrity; there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. Years and years down the road, I know I’ll be proud to look back and say, “Subject Matter had wins and losses, but we always did it with integrity.”
SM: You wear a bowtie every day. What’s with that?
Whit: All I can tell you is I’m a good ol’ boy who went to a Southeastern Conference school. Typical University of Tennessee game-day attire for me was orange slacks, white dress shirt, Tennessee suspenders, cowboy boots, and an orange and white bow tie. From freshman year on, it was me rocking bow ties.
Years later when I was working for Boehner, I thought, “Well, he’s about to be the majority leader. Maybe I should tone down the Southern frat guy look.” And I started wearing regular neckties for a couple of days. When Boehner found out, he said, “No way! Go back to bowties. Everyone’s got to have their trademark, and that’s your thing.”
To me, though, that’s a big reason why you can’t judge a book by its cover. Sure, I may be viewed as this conservative, bow-tie-wearing, Southern guy, but I’m also someone who loves noodling to 25-minute Grateful Dead jams and wearing a T-shirt, flip-flops and Magnum P.I. shorts on the weekends. You just never know what you might get.